Those traveling to Napa this summer should make a point of dining at La Toque, while Sonoma visitors should try Cyrus.
Cyrus (www.cyrusrestaurant.com) is an upscale restaurant near Healdsburg Plaza. I had my first meal there last week, and chef Douglas Keane's culinary wizardry exceeded my expectations. Each entrée outdid its predecessor.
I dined with Tom Klein of Rodney Strong Vineyards, and we brought along his 2005 Reserve Chardonnay. It was rich and elegant, with honeyed melon flavors.
Tom also bought two 1989 Bordeaux from his cellar, a Pichon-Lalande and Pichon-Baron, both of which tasted tired and were disappointing.
We ordered a 2004 Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which was sleek and tight, with a trim beam of wild berry and cranberry flavors.
Then a kind soul seated at the bar, nursing a 2002 La Tâche, sent us two glasses of his wine, which was perfect to compare with the Hirsch. The La Tâche had a complex earth and cherry aroma, yet was supertight on the palate.
Finally, the restaurant offered us each a glass of the 1997 Château d’Yquem, which had a strong earthy character, and I suspect was slightly corked.
The night’s winner: 2004 Hirsch.
Three nights later, I dined with friends at Ken Frank’s La Toque (www.latoque.com) in Rutherford. It has a classy wine country inn atmosphere, with ideal patio dining. I’ve enjoyed many meals at La Toque, but this one was by far the finest, with an exciting range of entrées.
We drank a 2005 Kutch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, which is an amazingly supple, complex and harmonious wine for winemaker Jamie Kutch’s first effort.
We also savored a 2002 Shafer Hillside Select, which is also remarkable. It is a deep, profound, richly flavored wine, yet its finesse, balance and subtle Cabernet flavors worked perfectly with the five-course meal.
The sommelier graciously offered us a taste of two new wines, both small-production Napa Valley Cabernets that were being served with that evening’s tasting menu. The 2004 Roy Estate (about $100 retail) was dominated by oak, with dried currant flavors. I liked the 2004 Tierra Roja (also about $100) much better. It offered an intriguing vanilla-cherry-yogurt aroma and was smooth and polished on the palate.
On the way out we ran into Jason Moore, who works nights as a waiter at the restaurant and days at Napa L' Attitude winery, the former Koves-Newlan site, where he makes his wines. He poured us a glass of his 2006 Modus Operandi (moduswines.com) Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford (about $22). Moore’s (M)(O) Sauvignon is New Zealand–inspired—fresh, racy and intense, and sealed with a Vino-Lok glass stopper. A 2004 Napa Cabernet is due out this fall.
Book the restaurants on back-to-back nights for the perfect two-night wine country food and wine experience, and expect to try new wines—lots of them.