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exploring wine with tim fish

Cyrus Blooms Again in Alexander Valley

After two years on hiatus, top Sonoma restaurant reboots in a new locale
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Oct 29, 2014 10:50am ET

Cyrus was Sonoma County's top restaurant when it closed two years ago. The timing was ironic, since Healdsburg's dining scene in 2012 was almost red hot, a fire that Cyrus helped ignite when it opened in 2005.

Partners Nick Peyton and Douglas Keane always said Cyrus was only on hiatus, and now the reboot is officially in the works. Sorry, reservations aren't being accepted yet. You'll have to wait until 2016. That's a long time, but considering what Keane, Peyton and their investors have in mind, it's just around the corner.

If all goes as planned, Cyrus 2.0 will be set in the heart of a vineyard in Alexander Valley, across from Jimtown Store on Highway 128. Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines is a Cyrus fan and owns the property.

Chef Keane—who won Bravo's Top Chef Masters last year—envisions an intimate yet movable feast. "I don't think people want to sit down for four hours anymore," Keane said of the classic fine-dining experience. "I want to take people on a journey."

By intimate, I mean very intimate. Only 36 diners a night, 12 guests at a time, will be served, fewer than half of Cyrus 1.0. The night will begin with Champagne and caviar, a trademark combo for the restaurant.

From there, things will shift to a chef's table, as Keane plans it, and the focus will be on raw and seared fish and shellfish. A traditional dining room with private tables and views of the vineyard will follow.

Finally, there's the chocolate room. Sorry, you can't start there. "If Willy Wonka and Michelin went on a date," Keane said, "this would be it."

The food will be a variation on the original Cyrus, with less emphasis on butter and cream and more on acid and umami, a Japanese term that's a hard-to-define combo of savory and flavorful, and is something that Keane has been exploring.

Peyton will oversee the front of the house and has big plans for the wine cellar. Sadly, the original cellar is no more, but he has a budget of about $1 million to restock a new one. "About 50 percent of that we're thinking will be Sonoma County," Peyton said.

Considering the planned location, that seems appropriate. Cyrus Alexander, from whom the restaurant and the valley took its name, had his start nearby.

Peyton will have two sommeliers on hand and an extensive wine-by-the-glass program so guests will have a customized wine experience. "Having a great wine list is one thing but being able to open up that list personally for every guess is another," Peyton said.

If you're wondering how much all this pampering will cost, Peyton conceded, "This will not be inexpensive."

But it will be genuine and unstuffy if I know Peyton and Keane. I never felt the need to hush and worship the food and wine experience at Cyrus the way I did at other high-end restaurants.  

I look forward to what the new Cyrus will bring.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  October 29, 2014 1:08pm ET
I think I'll still miss the old Cyrus. Just having a cocktail in the bar was an experience. It's where I learned the secret to a great Old Fashioned (Amarena cherries) and saw my first authentic Absinthe drip. Sigh....
Michael De Polo
West Bloomfield, Mi —  November 2, 2014 6:14pm ET
We only made it to Cyrus once, on a Sonoma trip in August 2005. The meal--seven courses--was spectacular and wine pairings were truly inspired. At only 36 guests per evening, though, it looks like those of us in fly-over territory will now need to plan vacations around reservations, rather than the other way around.

Still, if it's anything like the original, it will be a worthwhile effort.

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