To get your mind off COVID-19, think food. Even better, think food and wine, as in the 2020-21 season of wine dinners that Café Margaux anticipates launching Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3.
Social distancing is not an issue at the upscale Cocoa Village restaurant, which already provides plenty of elbow room from fellow patrons. All the necessary hygienic precautions were de rigueur at Margaux well before coronavirus reared its ugly, ugly head.
The restaurant is maintaining a policy of 50 percent capacity and is able to add additional days to the wine dinners if reservations require it.
“We’ll make sure the show goes on in a safe, organized and fun way,” said owner Alex Litras.
Litras chose a selection from Wente’s portfolio for the season opener, but the nine wines on the schedule are definitely not your Mom’s Wente.
“Folks may be familiar with the basic tier Wente, but with this dinner, we’re taking it out of the realm people are familiar with,” said Shayna Dorough, broker for Brittany Sales Company and guest speaker at the Margaux wine dinner.
“We are focusing on very special wines.”
Wente, the country’s oldest continuously operating family-owned winery, was founded in 1883 and draws from estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco appellations from Monterey.
Wente is credited for bringing chardonnay to the United States when in 1912, second-generation winemaker Ernest Wente persuaded his dad, C.H., to import chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at the University of Montpellier France. More than 80 percent of all the chardonnays in California today stem from the Wente clone.
“Wente is the First Family of chardonnay,” said Dorough.
The Cafe Margaux dinner will feature Wente all-stars such as the 135th anniversary Limited Release Chardonnay from the Central Coast and the Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Pinot Noir from Arroyo Seco.
The event also features a couple of “taste tests” that include the posh Nth Degree Chardonnay pitted against the Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that is well north of $100 per bottle. The wine’s name is derived from the fact that winemaker Carl Wente took the production process to the “nth degree” for these beauties.
But let’s get back to the dinner portion. The six-course meal, paired with the nine wines, commences with a soup of cream of ivory garbanzo with baby leeks. Salad, in the form of arugula and frisee lettuce with fresh mozzarella, honey-roasted black walnuts and a nectarine pomegranate vinaigrette, follows.
Pan-seared halibut, with celery root turnip hash and asparagus beurre blanc will be paired with the 135th anniversary wine. Harissa-marinated lamb chops follow before a cheese course of Esquirrou Ossau-Iraty AOP from France’s Basque region.
Guests will have the opportunity to pit the tastes of the Wente Single Vineyard Wetmore against those Wente’s Murietta’s Well “The Spur.”
The meal ends with Tahitian vanilla Riesling gateau with layers of boysenberry mousse, Ranier white chocolate drizzle and fresh berries, but the wine still continues with the tastings of the two Nth Degree selections.
A single seating is at 6:30 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday, but more days will be added if needed. Cost is $110 per guest.
Folks who these days feel out of their comfort zone at a restaurant should note that Café Margaux is also offering curbside pickup or VIP “chauffeur delivery” by Litras’ better half, Megan. While you cannot order a wine dinner to go, you can get everything else from the restaurant’s regular menu.
Café Margaux is at 220 N. Brevard Ave., Cocoa Village. To reserve for a wine dinner, or order take-away, call 321-639-8343. Reservations are also accepted at margaux.com.
Support local journalism: Find offers for new subscribers at floridatoday.com/subscribe.