Paul Newman is getting into the wine business. If Coppola can do it, so can Cool Hand Luke. The film icon is adding two types of wine – a California chardonnay and a cabernet to his Newman's Own food empire and a percentage of the sales will go to charity. The wines are not yet available in stores but if you're interested in tasting the wines Fleming's Steakhouse in the Gables is hosting a five-course wine pairing dinner Monday March 10 in their private dining room. Cost is $95 and includes big ticket items like filet mignon and duck. We attended a similar dinner a few weeks ago for the launch of the wines so if you're interested in going, here's a sneak peek of what to expect.
First off, since there are only two types of Newman's wines, the other three courses are paired with Coppola's wines, which works well because they're produced in roughly the same regions of California as Newman's. Also, the staff at Fleming's is super accommodating and generous so you basically get unlimited pours of the wines during each course. Considering what a feast like this usually costs at the steakhouse, you definitely get your money's worth in terms of wine and food.
First course: Sicilian Bruschetta and Spicy Tuna Tartare on Focaccia Crackers.
SOFIA, Blanc de Blancs California, 2004
I had tried the SOFIA sparkling wine at parties before (it comes in trendy pink cans) but never with food, yet it worked really well with the spicy tuna and the olive oil in the bruschetta. A really refreshing start to the dinner.
Second course: Seared Arctic Char, fennel and citrus salad.
NEWMAN’S OWN Chardonnay California, 2006
The chardonnay is blended slightly with Riesling and muscat so there's a subtle sweetness to it which cut nicely into the richness of the fish. The citrus and fennel in the salad echoed the citrus flavors in the wine.
Third course: Glazed Duck Breast marinated in Newman’s Own teriyaki, crispy polenta cake with roasted grapes.
NEWMAN’S OWN Cabernet Sauvignon California, 2006
The teriyaki marinade worked well with the cherry and berry flavors in the wine. The sweetness in the roasted grapes and polenta brought out the chocolate and cedar notes in the medium-bodied wine.
Fourth course: Filet “Corleone” with porcini mushrooms, served on a bed of sweet onion risotto, roasted vegetables
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA DIAMOND COLLECTION, Claret California Black Label, 2005
This is Coppola's most popular wine and it's easy to see why – it's ridiculously robust with notes of black currant, plum, allspice and pepper. There's a lot going on in the wine so pairing it with a hefty filet was a classic combo. The meat stood up the flavors in the wine while the porcini mushrooms added earthy undertones to the whole dish. The risotto was super-rich.
Fifth course: Hazelnut Marjolaine (served at the 2007 Academy Awards dinner)—layers of Hazelnut Meringue, Dark Chocolate Ganache and Hazelnut Buttercream.
DELAFORCE, Tawny Port Colheita, 1986
This dessert was so delicate and flavorful that it puts to shame most chocolate lava cakes that pass for desserts these days. The chocolate ganache topping highlighted the orange and fig flavors in the port while the nutty layers offset the sweetness. I polished off the slice despite the massive feast that preceded it.
I had never been to Fleming's before and I was won over by the classy steakhouse décor and uber-professional service. During each course the sommelier and the chef give a little introduction about the wine and the food and how they work together which was helpful. Another bonus is that the staff creates a convivial spirit throughout the dinner with trivia questions focusing on Paul Newman's career. Prizes included bottles of wine and DVD's of Newman films so you could walk out of there with a party favor if you study up on Newman trivia beforehand.
2525 Ponce de Leon