Food editor’s annual wine dinner returns to Atlantis with PlumpJack pours

Stags Leap and Howell Mountain cabs among the pours

Atlantis Steakhouse braised lamb shank
BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Braised lamb shank is being paired with Cade Howell Mountain Estate cabernet sauvignon at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

All wine enthusiasts have special places and pours that at once elevate and deepen their drinking lives. For me, properties in the PlumpJack Group have long been like that.

I’m thinking of raiding parties to Balboa Cafe in San Francisco and wine-soaked fashion show weekends at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn at Lake Tahoe. I’m remembering marvelous meals at Jack Falstaff and Farm restaurant when they were in the PlumpJack portfolio, and a slew of visits to the gorgeous PlumpJack wineries in the Napa Valley.

All of which makes me especially excited PlumpJack wines are starring at the dinner I’m hosting Oct. 26 at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino. I’ve hosted this fall Steakhouse dinner for a decade, and 2021 marks not only its return after a pandemic year off, but also my first dinner as the new food and drink editor of the Reno News & Review.

____________

AN EVENING WITH JOHNATHAN L. WRIGHT

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 26

Where: Atlantis Steakhouse in Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, 3800 S. Virginia St.

What: A six-course dinner featuring wines from three PlumpJack estates

Cost: $195 inclusive

Reservations: 775-824-4411

Visit here for menu/details

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The Atlantis culinary team tells me they’re as excited as I am.

“PlumpJack is a winery that gets a lot of request for wine dinners,” said Christian O’Kuinghttons, cellar master of the Atlantis. “They are able to offer very distinctive wines for the appellations of the Napa Valley, and they create a well-rounded hospitality.”

So let’s get hospitable with a preview of the food and wine pairings.

Sauvignon blanc with character; lobster and chardonnay

BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: A gougère puff filled with sweet Dungeness crab is being paired with Cade Napa Valley sauvignon blanc at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

The regular Atlantis Steakhouse menu proceeds along traditional lines. Wine dinners give the kitchen crew a break from tradition.

“We get to play around a lot more with the dishes,” said Darren Stanley, room chef of the Steakhouse. “It’s our chance to cut loose,” added Samuel Hilborn, the Steakhouse sous chef.

Dinner begins with a Dungeness crab gougère bedded in tropical fruit relish and a swoosh of red pepper coulis. The 2019 Cade Napa Valley sauvignon blanc joins the puffs that are lightly nutty from Parmesan.

BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Lobster ravioli crowned by caviar are being paired with PlumpJack Reserve Napa Valley chardonnay at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

“This wine is fermented in oak, stainless steel and concrete,” O’Kuinghttons said, a triple play that creates creamy texture, a backdrop of acidity and a full mouthfeel. “This wine is a friend to food.”

The 2019 PlumpJack Reserve Napa Valley chardonnay, nicely balancing citrus, vanilla and spice, accompanies butter-poached Maine lobster ravioli swaddled in lobster cream and topped by a dab of caviar.

“It’s lobster three ways: lobster cream, lobster itself in the stuffing and a lobster claw accent,” said Dennis Houge, executive chef of the Atlantis. “It’s definitely going to be rich. The brininess of the American caviar will help cut the richness.”

For duck and lamb, splendid cabernets

BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: PlumpJack Oakvill Estate cabernet sauvignon is the first of three cab sauvs being showcased at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

Up next? The 2017 PlumpJack Oakville Estate cabernet sauvignon, from a thick center-cut portion of the Napa Valley. The wine, O’Kuinghttons said, features clove, roasted sage, black cherry, well-integrated oak. Pan-seared Sonoma duck breast with black cherry gastrique links arms with this pour.

“Instead of another poultry we went with duck — it has that lovely fattiness,” said David Holman, assistant executive chef of the Atlantis. “There’s a touch of five-spice powder on the duck. It’s the beginning of fall. It’s the season for duck.”

BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Pan-seared Sonoma duck breast is being paired with PlumpJack Oakville Estate cabernet sauvignon at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

Dinner takes to the hills next with a 2017 Cade Howell Mountain Estate cabernet sauvignon offering aromas of violets and a roasty mix of coffee, coconuts and black cherries on the palate. “This is high-mountain complexity,” O’Kuinghttons said of the wine.

That complexity requires a sturdy partner, like wine-braised lamb shank in a rich creamy herby garlicky mingling of polenta and Boursin cheese. The lambs graze at will on lush oceanside pastures in New Zealand.

“The meat tastes different in cooler weather because they are eating different shrubs,” Holman said.

Luscious striploin joins a brawny cab

BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Odette Estate cabernet sauvignon, from the famed Stags Leap District in the Napa Valley, is the final cab sauv being poured at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

For many years, Atlantis Steakhouse has sourced steaks from Allen Brothers, the famed Chicago supplier of USDA Prime Grade beef. For the PlumpJack dinner, tender Prime striploin arrives with roasted Brussels sprouts, a Yukon gold potato cake and deeply savory mushroom demi-glace.

“The Prime market is very narrow. We are always guaranteed product because — hah! — we are one of their prime customers,” Houge said.

The striploin consorts with a 2017 Odette Estate cabernet sauvignon from Stags Leap District, one of the finest Napa Valley appellations for cabernet sauvignon.

BOB CONTRERAS, DAVID DORN AND SEN SAELEE/PROVIDED TO RN&R: USDA Prime Grade striploin is being paired with Odette Estate Stags Leap District cabernet sauvignon at the PlumpJack Wines dinner Oct. 26, 2021, at Atlantis Steakhouse in the Atlantis casino.

“This is lusciousness and lush fruit. This is the big cabernet sauvignon from the Napa Valley. This is the impression we wanted to leave at the end,” O’Kuinghttons said.

Dinner concludes with sweet and salt: pumpkin mousse roulade graced by salted caramel sauce. It’s a fine fall finish to a fine fall dinner. See you there.

Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor for Reno News & Review. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsJLW or on Facebook personally or at @FoodNevada. Sign up here for the Reno News & Review free weekly newsletter highlighting our most recent stories.

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