3330 Steiner Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
Chef Jason Moniz
Dinner/lounge hours nightly
Retail hours 2pm to closing daily
Last tried: August 2006
Even though I adore Nectar Wine Lounge, a wine bar/wine store/restaurant where you could taste all kinds of wines, order small plates (or a full dinner) to go with wine, and also shop for and buy bottles of wine, I never really took full advantage of the benefits of this hybrid concept apart from occasionally stopping in for a glass of wine. Nonetheless, I always liked that it was there, like an outfit you buy because you fell in love with it but somehow keep forgetting to wear.
Nectar Wine Lounge recently started a Court of Master Sommelier style blind-tasting wine event led by sommelier Jennifer Knowles, with a matching prix-fixe dinner prepared by Chef Jason Moniz. Each participant brings a wine (between $15-$30 per bottle) to be dissected according to color, viscosity, smell, taste, and finish. You can geek out with every single descriptor you have ever heard of in Sideways, or just sip and eat. The fun part, for both wine geeks and wine novices, is that this event helps you separate out what you smell and what you taste, based on the guidelines and tasting format of the Court of MS examinations, in a fun, low-key setting, while also enjoying a fabulous multi-course dinner.
We were welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine-- was it Prosecco, Cava, Cremant, California, or Champagne? It was fun to try and discern, even though we all guessed wrong (The reveal showed that it was a 2002 Gramona Gran Cuvee Cava). To pair, we were presented with a crunchy, buttery bread salad with sweet heirloom tomatoes drizzled with an olive oil vinaigrette and topped with a mound of fresh haricot verts dressed in a creamy sherry crema.
The next course was a pan-fried Alaskan halibut on a bed of sauteed summer vegetables including yellow and green beans, potatoes, and porcini mushrooms, with a smoky bacon pan sauce. A sprinkling of pungent, freshly ground black pepper on the halibut highlighted the salty flavor of the crispy skin, while the moist white flesh underneath melted in my mouth, creating a pleasant startling contrast with the light crunch of the perfectly cooked fresh vegetables and fluffy insides of the crispy potatoes. The mystery wine was a 2002 Morgon Beaujolais, which everyone guessed to be a much older Burgundy.
The last savory course was roasted pork loin surrounded by a swirl of spicy pasilla chile pan reduction, accompanied by a summer corn and zucchini bread pudding and a small salad of arugula and yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The flavor of the tender and juicy pork was accentuated with the chili and cumin spicing which brought out the sweetness of the meat, echoed by the sweetness of the corn in the creamy bread pudding. A tangle of fresh cilantro microgreens on top made the entire dish come alive. The final wine reveal was a 2004 Emmanuel Dunaud Crozes Hermitage-- a perfect match with the spices and hearty summer flavors of the dish.
Last but not least, we had one of the best chocolate pot de cremes ever for dessert, with a side of shortbread cookies and fresh strawberries. Although I normally do not care for pot de creme due to either the texture (too waxy, too sticky, or simply just too much like canned frosting) or the sweetness level being off, this one mastered both elements. I was quite curious to see what the sommelier would pair with this multi-dimensional dessert. She brought over a glass of Lustau, Don Nuno Oloroso Sherry. The nutty sweetness of the wine made the pot de creme taste even more chocolatey while matching beautifully with the buttery shortbread.
I never realized that a learning experience could be so much fun. Not to mention, in how many restaurants can you ogle bottles of Pingus and Lafite (that you can buy to take home) en route to the restroom?