A Taste of Texas Wines at Sullivan's

Last week, Sullivan's Steakhouse played host to Messina Hof founders Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo for a wine dinner showcasing the Texas-based winery's award-winning wines. I was invited to attend, not only to reacquaint myself with the Messina Hof's wines, but also to sample the specialty menu created by newly promoted Executive Chef Horacio Degante.

The dinner was set in one of the private wine rooms, and upon entrance, guests were immediately greeted with a glass of Messina Hof's 2010 Private Reserve Chardonnay, a crisp, easily drinkable white that married well with the passed appetizers of shrimp and scallop ceviche cleverly served in a cucumber cup, along with roasted peach crostini with prosciutto and Texas honey.

The evening kicked off with a greeting by the Bonarrigos, who introduced their winery with some facts about the growing wine industry in Texas, the fact that their winery is named after Paul's hometown of Messina, Italy and Merrill's hometown of Hof, Germany, and some other short, fun stories about their wines and winery.

Dinner commenced with a brief introduction of the chefs, and presentation of the the first course, a butternut squash soup finished off with a poached jumbo prawn. The butternut squash soup was paired with the 2010 Messina Hof Private Reserve Pinot Noir, which was an interesting combination. Increasingly, it seems, dishes that would normally be paired with a white wine are being paired with reds.

The Pinot, though lighter than a more robust Merlot or stronger-bodied Zinfandel, was easily drinkable on its own. However, for the pairing, I preferred the Chardonnay, which had been served with the appetizers, with the soup and shrimp. Call me old-school if you like; white wine and seafood just works for me.

The second course was fantastic, a New York Strip crusted with this mix of sweet and savory spices, and served with lobster twice-baked potato and broccolini. The spice mixture was reminiscent of a chimichurri, but sweeter, transforming what could have been a staid, traditional strip steak into something that awakened the senses. The pairing was a good one, too, with the spices calling out the more unusual notes from the 2009 Cedar Crest Vineyard Cabernet Franc.

The third and final course of the night was paired with my favorite wine of the evening. Created in honor of his wife, the Angel Riesling late harvest white wine was sweet and fragrant, a great accompaniment to any dessert. Served with a mango crème brulee tart, tropical fruit salsa and caramel passion fruit sauce, it was a sweet ending to a well-prepared wine dinner.

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