July 12, 2009

Chowing Down at Chao Chao and the Joy of Well-Priced Wine Lists!

I've been away a bit, visiting the family in CT. Yeah, I'm a Yankee.
Spent some time drinking killer wines with my brother, who is a wine dude himself, and turned me on to good wine about 10 years ago with a 1997 Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select, one of the finest Cabernets produced in CA.

Thursday night, we dined at Chao Chao in Sandy Hook, CT. Sandy Hook is a quaint New England village town about 40 miles southwest of Hartford and 60 miles northeast of NYC.

We were glad to see Dr. Mark Greene there dining with his two daughters, just in case, ya know, any of us fell ill. :-)

Chao is a great little fusion restaurant with a diverse menu that ranges from outrageous sushi and sashimi , to great tapas, and main plates. I didn't get pics, but we shared a killer tapas plate of chorizo-stuffed puff pastry served with a wedge of Manchego and a honey dipping sauce, and the tuna mignon served over baby bok choy and forbidden rice. Heavenly.

Best part, for a wine lover, is a wine list that is diverse and well-priced.
There was plenty of small/family Cali labels one doesn't always find on restaurant lists (Melville Syrahs in the $40s/and Brewer-Clifton Pinots in the mid-$50s). There were also some nicely priced Burgs and Rhones, like Beaucastel's 2003 Coudelet at $55. A wine you'd be lucky to find in ATL for under $40 at retail.

However, the real deal was the 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard at $68. Say what? I almost fell off my chair. This is one of my favorite Cali pinots I've had in recent years and it sells for $60 direct from the winery. $68 off a restaurant list is just awesome. Those who know Arcadian know Joe Davis makes wines that need some time; the '01 Sleepy Hollow is just now starting to reach its potential. We grabbed one right away and threw it in the mix with the other bottles we carried in.
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It was a great night of food wine. All the wines showed well and the food was outrageous. Fun to stumble upon a great wine list at a hidden little gem of a restaurant. Another plus, the wines are stored actively, the Arc bottle was pristine.

Coupla wine notes:

2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow

Stunning, haunting, sleepy hollow-funkness aromatics that cascade across the table. Black cherry, earth emerge with time as broad strokes of blackberry fruit and notes of mushroom stock weave in and out. Layers and layers unfold as it sits in the glass. My brother worked his last glass for three hours and it was still singing along as it neared midnight. Bravo.

1999 E. Guigal Hermitage
This one came from my brother's cellar. Drinking quite nice right now. Opened for 30 minutes before pouring. Nose shows some bacon and earth, waves of black cherry come and go. Palate is dark cherry, with some licorice and a nice swath of acidity that gives enough lift to keep things interesting. Meaty notes on the long, slightly tannic finish. Really in a good place and terrific with the pappardelle and veal bolognese.

A great meal and a spectacular night at Chao Chao.

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