dependable duckhorn

Last night’s dinner was an impromptu celebration of the close of a tough work week for both Kate and me. The week was so full of complex issues, rigorous thinking, and important interactions (Kate’s interview piece with the French media among them), we spun our wheels for 20 minutes just trying to settle on a type of cuisine. We both generally make quick decisions; this time we just wanted to be told what to do. When indecisive, it’s hard to turn down the idea of a steak and a bottle of wine.

Enter Ruth’s Chris. Sitting on the 11th floor in Crystal City, the restaurant’s large windows allow diners to watch the constant take-offs and landings at Reagan National airport, which comes off more like a ballet and less like an industrial “airport” operation you might imagine. Beyond that, the view turns to boaters on the Potomac River cruising in and out of the city, and finally the sweeping vista that is the Nation’s capital.

We were pleased when our server, Al, greeted us, as he’s taken great care of us before. An Army veteran from Tennessee, his southern drawl and genuinely friendly approach is a refreshing departure from DC’s usual hustle. As Kate and I slowly perused the wine list, Al brought over a taste of white wine, which, I am happy to report, I correctly identified as a Riesling from Mosel, Germany (maybe some of that studying is paying off). Kate and I both had filets with shrimp. As expected, everything was delicious. The sous chef even sauteed some mushrooms and onions for us (after a little sweet talking from Al).

Our wine selection was a standout. We had several ideas, but settled on the 2009 Decoy Meritage from Duckhorn Vineyards. Founded in the Napa Valley in 1976, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, along with winemaker Bill Nancarrow, have earned a reputation for crafting quality, complex, age-worthy wines primarily using Bordeaux varietals. The Decoy is a blend of Merlot (46%), Cabernet Sauvignon (43%), Cabernet Franc (9%), and Petit Verdot (2%). The mocha of the Merlot and the black currant of the Cabernet Sauvignon shine through, while the subtle complexities from the other two grapes, along with aging in mostly used French oak barrels, offer an appealing earthy, smoky, licorice.

One small digression: The Meritage name was created in 1988 by a group of Napa Valley vintners who wanted a way to identify their wines as red Bordeaux blends, that is, a red wine composed of up to five grape varieties that are permitted in France to be bottled as Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. This is essentially America’s Bordeaux blend, and the name rhymes with “heritage.” That means you don’t want to infuse an artificial foreign pronunciation by turning the last syllable into “taj,” as in “Taj Mahal.”

I call this post “dependable duckhorn” because this is the second time Kate and I have settled on this brand at a restaurant, and so far they are two for two. The last time was at Olives in the Las Vegas Bellagio, and we chose the 2007 Parradux Red Wine, a blend that uses Zinfandel as its backbone. I’ve mentioned that wine on here before, so I won’t belabor the point.

We all lead busy lives, and sometimes we just want to kick back with a nice meal and a glass of wine. If you don’t live in DC, you might not be able to enjoy Al’s company while looking out across the Potomac, but you can always rely on a good steak and a bottle of Duckhorn to cap off a hectic week.

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