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Feb 11, 2008 03:06 PM

Need help quick! Challenge: wine recs for tonights dinner degustation

Hi all!

This is very short notice, which I apologize for, but hopefully you can all help me out. So my mom and I are eating at a very nice French Restaurant (Carlos' in Highland Park, IL) tonight at 7:30 central time and will each be doing a degustation. She will be doing game and meat, while I'm I'm going for the shellfish and fish degustation. Since Monday night is no corkage fee, we thought it would be a good opportunity to match our wines instead of going with their wine pairings. Seeing as I rely on my Chowhounders' expertise much more than my own, I had I though it the best place to get recommendations as to which wines pair well. Below are our menus, and below that I'll write down which wines we currently have. We can bring multiple bottles, and my mom is less picky about which wine goes with what, but if a certain wine goes great with both that would be great, obviously. Obviously meat and fish can merit some different wine choices, so I know not every wine can accommodate both. I trust you all know what I mean and can offer advice on what to recommend :) Anyway, here are the menus (underneath are their pairings, which we've decided not to do) and wines:

Chef's Selection
Meat and Game Degustation Menu

Grilled California Squab Breast with Tart of Spinach, and Mushrooms
with a Natural Jus
2001 Vosne-Romanée Domaine Gros Frére et Soeur Burgundy

Pan Seared Duck and Duck Confit with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Baby Carrots and a Grape Reduction
2006 Greg Norman Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Grilled Lamb Chop with Ox-Tail Ravioli,
Baby Spinach and a Caramelized Shallot and Sherry Gastrique
2004 Joseph Carr Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cocoa Crusted New Zealand Venison with Caramelized Fennel, Root Vegetables and a Cherry Reduction
2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de Saint Siffrein Rhone Valley

Grilled Ribeye with Butter Poached Fingerling Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower and a Cabernet-Rosemary Reduction
2003 Fagus de Coto de Hayas Garnacha CXampo de Borja Spain

Symphony of Dessert
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne

Petits Four

Chef's Selection
Shell Fish and Fish Degustation Menu

Scottish Smoked Salmon and Butter Poached Fingerling Potato Terrine
with a Caviar and Vodka Cream Reduction
2005 Balthazar Ress Riësling-Kabinett Rheingau Germany

Jumbo Lump Crab Meat with Kiwi, Mango and a Sunchoke Puree
2006 Torresella Veneto, Italy Pinot Grigio

Chervil and Black Truffle Crusted Ahi Tuna
with Roasted Kobacha Squash and a Truffle-Thyme Reduction
2005 Kathy Lynskey Wines Marlborough, New Zealand Pinot Gris

Pan Seared Jumbo Prawn
with Parsnip Custard and a Caramelized Popcorn Reduction
2006 Jean-Marc Brocard "Dom. Saint Clarie" Chablis

Red Snapper with Braised Kale, Salsify Puree
and a Stone Ground Mustard Beurre Blanc
2005 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Alexander Valley

Symphony of Dessert
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne

Petits Four

The wines we currently have are:

2006 Maysara Pinos Gris, Willamette Valley
2005 Aldin Chardonnay, Napa Valley
2005 Vin d'Alsace, Rolly Gassman Reisling, Alsace
2001 Rolly Gassman Auxerros, Alsace
2005 Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
2001 Easton Zinfandel
2006 Owen Roe Sinister Hand
2004 Kent Rasmussen Esoterica Petite Sirah, Napa Valley
2003 Keenan Merlot, Napa Valley
2005 Owen Roe Yakima Valley
2004 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon
Trentadue Chocolate Amore

Thanks so much!


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  1. The menu sounds delicious- I'd opt for the pairings, as they have some really great wines listed. You may have already left for the dinner, but if not here goes:

    You can throw out the idea of pairing altogether and just drink what you and your family likes. The som at El Bulli endorses this idea, but the menu there probably creates challenges that would cause one to just throw their hands up and say "just drink whatever".

    For the fish menu, I'd take the lead from the restaurant and take along the riesling, the pinot gris and the chard. You probably won't want to bring a wine for each dish as you'll end up with lots of open and barely consumed wine.

    as for the meat degustation, you don't really have any lighter reds. I haven't tried many of the wines you list, but you may have good luck pairing the owen roes, the cab and maybe the petite sirah as well.

    The Trentadue will go best with chocolates, and i'm betting that's not what he's serving.

    If all else fails, maybe you can order a glass for one or two the courses that your wines don't match.

    Best of luck.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pierrot

      Thanks for the quick response! I was debating whether I should just take one white for the fish (debating between the pinot gris, reisling and the Grgich Hills Sauvignon, which is really nice), one for meat (I'm thinking the Owen Roe Yakima Valley), and the dessert wine in case there are chocolate desserts.

      I've never actually been to a BYOB at an upscale restaurant, so I'm not sure whats typical in terms of how many wines to bring... we'll see what happens!

      Any other thoughts?

      Again, thanks for helping me narrow it down!

      1. re: ShikaSfrn

        Hi Shika...

        A bit late for your dinner but I'll comment in general anyway...

        1) MEAT & GAME. The pairings here are just superb. Personally I'd substitute Barolo with the venison or ribeye but otherwise the entrees seem very nicely paired. Not so sure about Brut champagne and dessert, depends on what's offered there.

        As for your bottles, your wines are a bit heavy for the duck and squab, IMO... you need some Pinot Noir in your wine rack :) But your richer reds should work quite nicely with the heavier meats on this degustation...

        2) SEAFOOD MENU. Smoked Salmon... my preference is your chardonnay here. Lump Crab, probably the alsace riesling given the extensive fruit in this dish. Truffle Tuna... again, you need a Pinot Noir... Prawns ... the chardonnay and riesling would probably work, but I'd also try your Fume Blanc here.

        You can see that the common "missing bottle" from your BYOB is Pinot Noir. So you might BYOB a rich red... your zinfandel for example, because it has some nice age on it, and then just get a glass of Pinot from Carlos to pair with the duck and squab.

        for the Seafood, same thing. Bring, say.... chardonnay for sure and either the Fume or Riesling AND get a glass of Pinot at the restaurant to pair with your truffle tuna.

        This leaves you open to get whatever you think is the best match for the desserts, and I'd definitely get that there because they're likely to have a much wider range of appropriate pairings for the desserts (ports, sauternes, muscats, sweet rieslings, etc. etc.)...

        As for BYOB at this very nice restaurant, the only real difference is you generally don't carry the bottles to your table... give them to the host/ hostess when you enter and they'll see they are brought to your table.

        Please report back on your meal.

        1. re: Chicago Mike

          Thanks for the help!

          I ended up going for the wine pairing, I felt a little uncomfortable bringing 4 bottles of wine! For the most part their pairings were very good, but I will definitely agree with you that I wish they had given me a Pinot Noir, however the Tuna merried extremely well with the New Zealand Pinot Gris. I generally don't prefer New Zealand Pinot's over others, but this was really outstanding. The Chardonnay was a little bit too acidic for me, but it really did bring out the sweetness of the dish. Overall, I'm very happy I went with the pairings.

          My mom, being less picky, decided on the Owen Roe Yakima Valley, which I find a very versatile wine and so recommended it. And in general, it's just very drinkable. I would have liked a bolder red to stand up to the lamb, but she didn't notice the difference :)

          The must say I was dissapointed that they didn't give me a dessert wine that really paired well but instead defaulted to the Brut as a typical end to the meal. I've had some delicious dessert wine pairings in a few places, and those that make the extra effort always seem to be the most memorable experiences.

          As far as the meal, it is absolutely one of the best I've had! Chicago Mike, if you really are from Chicago, I highly recommend driving down to the Northern Suburbs and trying it out...

          1. re: ShikaSfrn

            I think you made a wise choice in going with the pairings. It is hard to bring 4 bottles of wine for 2 people, there is no chance of finishing it, and great chance that you will drink way too much and lose some of the experience! Although, if you share the bottles with the kitchen you will be very very popular, especially if they are nice bottles!

            I love tasting menus, but I find it hard to plan wines for the dinner, unless you happen to be dining with a group of 6-10 people, allowing you to order a different bottle with each course and still get through the wine. I appreciate the choice of a wine tasting paired with the meal, but I often wish that at least one of the chosen wines were something different, especially when you see some of the bottles on the main wine list! But I guess you can't be too choosy about your wines when there are only 2 of you at the table.

            Thanks for the report, I'll definitely keep my eyes out for this place the next time I am in Chicago.

            1. re: ShikaSfrn

              yes I really am, and Carlos' is wonderful. unfortunately i'/m in the center of town so it's a bit of a drive. used to really love le titi de paris, out in the burbs, ever eat there ?? a very under-appreciated gem IMO.... chef/owner has changed.