Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

I know they say that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" but that wouldn't make this blog any fun, now would it?  An unseasonably cool summer in Seattle sent Purple Girl and Mr. Purple packing for the desert.  While the rest of the world avoids Vegas in August, we jumped at the chance to bask in the blazing heat for a belated anniversary celebration.  Besides relaxing by the pool, playing some not so lucky hands at blackjack and seeing Le Reve (the Wynn's amazing acrobatic water show), we also had the chance to enjoy some wine.  Would you expect any less from Purple Girl?

Night one: Tapas and wine at La Cave - Wynn Las Vegas.  La Cave could be a blog post in and of itself.  La Cave is located in the Wynn and its trendy yet cozy atmosphere lends itself to the perfectly indulgent date night (or girls/guys night out if that's what brings you to Vegas).  The sun was setting while we there and the view overlooking the pool was amazing.  They are well known for their extensive wine list and small, but savory, plates. We enjoyed the salmon sashimi won tons (yes, we were brave with the raw fish) and the steak and blue cheese flatbread.  Safe to say that not a single morsel stayed on the plate. 

Wine was a bit tougher since eating establishments on the The Strip can get away with significant mark ups.  For those lucky people who were able to "win big", there were bottles of wine in the $4,000 range!! Sadly, the Purple's weren't that lucky so we opted for one of the "budget" wines - Tobin James, James Gang Reserve, 2007 Zinfandel from Paso Robles.  This great bottle of wine retails for $28... any takers on guessing what we paid for it?

Zinfandel is not always the most popular choice on the wine list but we had faith in a good Zin from Paso Robles. Paso Robles is one of the largest AVA's in San Luis Obispo County (I sure do love saying San Luis Obispo).  The Santa Lucia mountain range to its east shelters much of Paso Robles from coastal influences.  The first grapes were planted here in the late 18th century by Spanish missionaries.  Its warmer climate lends itself to rich and full-bodied wines like Zinfandels.

If I could give a one word adjective to the James Gang Reserve from Tobin James, I'd call it sassy.  As with most Zinfandels, this wine is not for the amateur wine connoisseur.  I've never particularly understood what it means when wine reviewers call a wine "jammy" until I tried the James Gang Reserve. The spicy and fruity aromas coupled with the strong, velvety raspberry taste make this wine a winner.  The spicy and peppery finish lasts a long time and reminds you that are drinking a Zin.  Highly recommended and I only hope I'm lucky enough to cross paths with this wine again.

Night Two: Dinner at Botero - Encore Las Vegas. I was not looking forward to the day I had to give a not so stellar review, but here we are in only post #7 of this blog.  Sure, I could sugar coat my experiences but that wouldn't really help out my fellow foodies and wine snobs out there.  Honesty wins out over being polite this time, so here goes my review.

Botero at the Encore Las Vegas has a lot of potential but doesn't necessarily deliver.  I'll admit I had a little sticker shock when I first saw the menu out front but the advertisement for their "Taste of Wynn" special convinced Mr. Purple and I to make a reservation for our belated anniversary dinner.  They were advertising a pre-fix, 3-course menu for $55/person.... not a bad deal when every option sounded fantastic.  Sadly, when we were seated shortly after 7:00 p.m., we were told the "Taste of Wynn" ended at 7:00 p.m. so were forced to order off the regular menu.  (That little caveat was not well displayed on their well marketed advertisement).   Well, you only live once right?  So, we sucked it up, dusted off our disappointment and ordered off the regular menu (I'm still gasping). The wedge salad was terrible (who can mess up a wedge salad?) and the main course of halibut was very average, at best.  If I would have paid $15/plate, I might not be so critical.  But triple that (at least) and you don't get by this Purple Girl easily. Now to the wine....

Given our <mildly surprised> reaction to the menu options, we opted to go for the safe bet and ordered a pinot from Patricia Green Cellars.  Patricia Green Cellars, located in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, is also a wonderful place to visit.  We were first introduced to her wines when we enjoyed her signature pinot specially made for the Herb Farm in Woodinville, Le Herb Savage.  Patricia Green Cellars specializes in pinots for all different tastes... hard to be disappointed after a visit to her winery.

We ordered her Pinot Noir from the Balcombe Vineyards, which according to her blog, is one of the best vineyards they work with.  The location on the top of the Dundee Hills lends itself to intense and rich pinot noirs and the 2009 vintage was no exception.  This bottle retails for around $36/bottle... sadly not the bargain you can get on the strip.  Believe it or not, we found this bottle located in the "Value" section of the wine list (I mean book).  Patricia chose to ferment this wine in whole clusters which is the reason for this wine's bold, tannin flavors.  I'll tackle fermenting in a future blog but, long story short, the skins, seeds and stems hold the majority of the tannins.  The longer those items hang with the fermenting fruit, the more tannins you'll find in the finished wine.  That's good if you want a wine to age well and stand the test of time... but if you are drinking that same wine two years after it was harvested off the vine, consider yourself warned.  You'll understand quickly what it means for a wine to be "young".  After some lengthy time in the glass and this wine opened up nicely to a classic cherry rich Pinot with hints of vanilla.  Easy to tell this will be a winner 5 - 7 years from now.

In fairness to Botero, they did have quite possibly the best dessert I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy - Smore's Brioche Doughnuts. If I could give my honest opinion, enjoy wine and food at La Cave and make the short trek to a new venue for dessert at Botero.  The two combined would ensure a perfectly wonderful evening.

And there you have it, the Purple's experience with the wine side of Vegas.  Adventures in downtown Las Vegas and the "scenery" at the European pool are best shared in person over another fine wine in the future.



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