Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Road Trip to Napa Pt. 2 (Santa Cruz/Cupertino - Los Altos Grill)

After lunch at Artisan, we raced up the 101 freeway for our appointment at Ridge Vineyards located in Cupertino, CA. Founded in the 60's the winery has two locations, one off the Monte Bello Ridge (hence the name) and one farther into the Santa Cruz mountains. Ridge is famous for placing 5th in the  Judgment of Paris, in 1976 as well as winning 1st in the subsequent followup in 1996, with their wine Monte Bello. A blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, the wines are main in a way for it to live long and prosper. 
Our meeting was with Caleb, the viticulturalist at Ridge Vineyards and good friend of a local wine buddy, to give us a driving tour of the Ridge Vineyards as well as a tour of the facility (and tasting of Monte Bello of course ;) ). The vineyard is situated over 2,500 sq ft above sea level and has a view of all of the Bay. 

After going to the tallest point at Ridge, we decided to explore their deepest point... the cellar built in the 1800's. They encourage the use of this moldy, dark cellar due to their belief that the limestone imparts a certain characteristic that you normally do not get.

Going down the stairs felt like entering a horror movie. The whole room was completely dark and when the lights turned on, it only illuminated certain areas of the room holding barrels... and it was a very very large room.

After leaving the horror show, we entered the room where the Monte Bello magic happens.

We tasted through 3 barrels of the 08 Monte Bello (sorry no concrete notes) some zins and finally an 05 Monte Bello. All quite yummy... not for everyone but a great wine in a less opulent style.

After the tasting, we headed on down the mountain for dinner with Josh Beck of Rhys at Los Altos Grill, a Hillstone property (ala Houston's). This particular restaurant centers on more of a Tex-Mex fare... a lot of lime, cilantro, deep earthy flavors opposed to Houston's which is centered around American fare. It still has the typical Prime Rib that most Hillstone restaurants have, but the other stuff is pretty tasty for the price.

We started off with some salads and their skillet baked corn bread.

Their skillet corn bread seems to be cooked with lime, jalapeno, and tons of corn kernels. You get a really light sour/spicy bite to it that is mixed in with the sweetness of the corn. It's actually pretty nice flavor wise. Texture wise, it was fluffy and fresh, what more could you ask for?

Then we had a few servings of their Nice Little House Salad

There is nothing little about this salad. Giant chunks of hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, goat cheese mixed in with wild greens and a light vinaigrette. Delightfully refreshing, especially with some nice aged Krug *nom*

Outside of their restaurant is a big wood fire rotisserie grill, which they have cooked up chicken and pork chops.. which were both ordered today. Slow roasted till juicy and tender... the notes below are a product of my dining compatriots who eat meat (I won't be eating meat till the next day.. and with good reason!)

First up the Banderas Style Roasted Chicken

It's served with green rice and spiced refried beans. The rice had the PERFECT amount of lime with just enough acidity to match the spice on the beans. The cilantro is fresh and imparts just enough flavor to accompany a very tender and flavorful piece of chicken. Highly recommended.

Next up the Rotisserie Pork Chop

Served on a bed of mash potato, the pork chop was about 2.5 inches thick. It was a real monstrosity. Moist and succulent, the slow roast allows the fat to render in the pork and create a really flavor packed piece of meat.

Then the Vegetarian Burger
Unlike most places with a weirdly form mesh of veggie and tofu, the Grill finely chops an assortment of vegetables and packs it tightly together. After about a hour in the burger finally started to fall apart but this was truly a novel concept.

Obligatory order of the prime rib.

To finish it off, the five of us split an Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich
When the waiter was telling us the desserts, I told him "You had me at Oreo". And damnit, if it wasn't something magical. Crushed oreo cookie sandwiching rich vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup... all I needed was a giant class of ice cold milk to finish the meal off.

I really liked the restaurant, the Hillstone Group puts out some good stuff at reasonable prices. Topping it off is ZERO corkage ... so ten bottles for the five of us was pretty awesome at zero dollars.

The next morning, we finally head into Napa for 4 days of fun in vineyards and sun!


Kirbie said...

I can't believe I've never been to this winery. It's so close to where I'm from. I'll have to visit it next time I'm home. The food looks delicious...I love corn bread served in a skillet!

Charlie Fu said...

Kirbie: I thought I took the wrong exit when the first thing I saw was a Boba Tea Shop ;). You have to go about 7 miles up a mountain side to reach it.

Call ahead for an appointment.. I think they might allow walkins on the weekend tho

Roger. said...

....G'damn. This and the Napa post above it make me so sad. Gotta find a chance to make my way up to Napa. If not for the wine, then for the food!

site said...

Thanks so much for your article, very effective piece of writing.