So, we settled on Pinot Brasserie at the Venetian, with the plan to have a reasonably light meal and [of course] a bottle of wine.
Like many of the restaurants in the Patina Group, Pinot Brasserie does not charge a corkage fee. So, we brought a bottle from home for this evening – a 2005 Valdez Family Winery Rockpile Road Zinfandel.
Ulises Valdez came to California to work in the vineyards. He was granted amnesty in 1986 and became a citizen in 1996. He started out as a vineyard worker and now owns his own vineyard management company, as well as producing wine under his family name.
The Zinfandel we had that evening was incredibly balanced and totally belied its stated 16.7% alcohol [!]. To accompany it – another cheese plate.
Pinot Brasserie’s cheese menu has well over 20 varieties of cheeses to choose from. One is instructed to pick five. Our server, Antoinette [who was also our server for our last visit in July], suggested we could also have the chef select the cheeses. That sounded fine to me; while I truly enjoy cheese, I claim even less expertise about cheese than I do about wine. I asked Antoinette to please ask the chef to select what he felt were his more unique offerings.
Well, not only did the chef select some outstanding cheeses for us, he selected seven rather than the usual five – no complaints here. They were all terrific, but the brie was truly memorable. When Antoinette described the cheeses, she explained that the brie was not your typical brie but more like the “filet mignon” of brie. Admittedly, I had my doubts, until I tried it – just fantastic.
We spent so long enjoying the cheeses that our bottle was empty by the time the entrees arrived. This was easily remedied, so we ordered a bottle of serviceable Australian Shiraz to go with the rest of the meal — bouillabaisse for Karen and roast chicken for me.
We also struck up a conversation with the couple next to us. They were visiting from Australia, where they own a restaurant in Melbourne called Chez Bob.
I found it interesting when talking with them that many of the Australian wines that we drink here were not particularly well know to this couple from Australia.
The gentleman, who was originally from France, had actually ordered a bottle of Chateau Haut Brion, which he graciously offered to us to try. We accepted, of course. All we had to offer in return was the aforementioned Shiraz, but we gladly shared in return.
As we left the restaurant, we left our new friends the rest of our bottle, along with a promise to come visit them in Australia.