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Unbelievable winemaker's dinner @ Valentino - 5/4/07

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Greetings fellow CH'ers! I think I've finally recovered from this past weekend of decadent food and wine consumption. I flew in Friday afternoon to attend the Wine Spectator Grand Tour event (which I'll review in this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/392365) and found an invitation in my suite at the Venetian for a special winemaker's dinner taking place at Valentino. After reviewing the menu and what was going to be poured, I immediately made my reservation.

When I arrived, the champagne reception had begun. '98 Dom Perignon was being poured with abandon, with 5 different types of appetizers being circulated (smoked salmon on toast, golden osetra caviar shots, capon meatballs, asparagus tips with mascarpone on bruschetta and bacon-wrapped shrimp). After downing several glasses, me and the other attendees (predominantly wine industry folk in town for the Wine Spectator event) were escorted to the rear area of Valentino and seated at a total of seven tables.

I knew that the chef for this dinner would be Luciano Pellegrini, recent James Beard Award winner for the Southwest category. What surprised many of us was that James Suckling, the esteemed reviewer from Wine Spectator magazine, was also in attendance and spoke when each wine was poured about his initial review of the wine and how it's maturing since. He was gracious, well-spoken and funny, and added immeasurably to the proceedings.

On to the courses:

1st course - duck prosciutto with fresh porcini pea-shoots and crispy beets, served at slightly below room temp. Overall, a decent starter. However, this was served with a '99 Chateau Haut Brion, which was drinking nicely.

2nd course - saffron risotto with roasted quail. Perfectly al dente, this was lipsmacking good. Paired with a '96 Mouton Rothschild, very good.

3rd course - buffalo medallions with grape must pickled cipollini onions. Delicious, but it paled in comparison to the '00 Margaux that was poured. Suckling got a big laugh out of all of us when he said the only reason he gave the Margaux a score of 100 was b/c he couldn't give it a higher score. Sublime for such a young monster, this alone was worth the price of admission.

4th course - cheese and homemade chutneys sampler. 7 different cheeses. Good. '89 Lafite Rothschild. GREAT! Would normally be the star of any event, but it was overshadowed a bit by the Margaux. Regardless, it was scrumptious.

Dessert - poached fruit with lemon sabayon. Meh, not the type of dessert I would order. '94 d'Yquem.....who needs dessert when you can drink this!!

Overall, I thought the food was very well-crafted and certainly worthy of solid praise. The wine, on the other hand, was stellar bordering on extraordinary.

Oh, and the price? $438. Tax and gratuity included. Worth every cent, and a great value compared to the cost of trying to replicate this on your own.

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  1. Wow, interesting. I was at the Venetian also and received an invite to this event. We had made reservations and then cancelled them, we were a party of three and didn't want to drop 1300 bucks, We are in rest/wine industry and are well familiar with what was being poured, and have had most of the offerings. We had also dined at Valentinos last year and was majorly disappointed in the food, overpriced wine list, etc. I am glad it was worth it. Although restaurants in Vegas have become very expensive, I do think they are living up to the standards, service, food and experience wise.