Hyatt (Incline Village, NV) Winemaker Dinners: A Best-of-Class Experience

A brilliant young winemaker and experienced Chef de Cuisine, brought together in harmonious combination by a talented sommelier – nothing could be quite as perfect as this kind of evening orchestrated at the Lone Eagle Grille at the toney Hyatt Regency resort in Incline Village, NV.

We’re talking about the fabulous winemaker dinners here, and the sommelier Kristi Snyder is the knock-your-socks-off hostess with the moistest. This summer we experienced Kristi’s hospitality first hand, as winemaker Nicholas de Luca of Dierberg Estate Vineyards poured wines that paired so perfectly with the dishes of chef Mark May that writing about the experience is like returning to a food-wine-pairing dream.

Throughout the year, the Lone Eagle Grille is a place sought out for its fine food and its fantastic wine list, all enjoyed with fantastic views of Lake Tahoe. We’ll talk more about the wine list built by Kristi Snyder and her philosophy of making wine accessible in a later column, but for now, picture yourself in a cozy corner room of the Grille, surrounded by great food and great wine and 30 other guests.

The wines featured were from the Dierberg Estate Vineyards. The Dierberg vineyard is located near the Pacific Coast in Santa Barbara County, and they produce incredible Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; owners Jim and Mary Dierberg focus the Dierberg label on the delicate and elegant Burgundy varieties. The nearby Star Lane Vineyard, also acquired by the Dierberg’s in 1996, is in the most eastern corner of the Santa Ynez Valley; this notably warmer terroir produces robust and powerful Bordeaux varieties.

Winemaker Nicholas de Luca brings his on-the-job experience to these wines from background at Cline Cellars, Fisher, several crushes in New Zealand, and Byington, in the Santa Cruz Mountains among other stops in a nonstop climb to the ranks of great young winemakers.

As guests mingled with the winemaker and sommelier, the Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was poured. This refreshing wine with aroma of citrus and a taste of grapefruit was served at the perfect temperature – frankly, a rarity in my wine tasting experience, as most whites are served far too cold! The correctness of the temperature allowed the wild spring flowers, gooseberries and mandarin orange flavors to manifest too . !3.6% alcohol. $20 bottle/winery, cellar for up to 6 years.

Chef May presented a first course of sautéed soft shell crab, served on a bed of mache lettuce and finished with beets and brown butter at the side. The Dierberg Chardonnay 2006 was a full bodied Chardonnay with bright acidity and, with its wonderful citrus characteristic, a perfect accompaniment to the crab. Grapes sourced from the Santa Maria vineyard result in deep tangelo, grapefruit and lemon grass aromas, with a touch of hazelnut. 14.6% alcohol. $32 bottle/winery, and will hold well for 5 years.

For my palate, the yummiest wine came next – the Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2006. Aroma of blackberry, a touch of white pepper, tobacco. Mild tannin in the middle, and a great finish. Winemaker de Luca noted that this wine is a bit of a lighter style Pinot than what Dierberg is generally known to produce, but said that “the wine we make needs to reflect the wildness of the vineyard, and we then take care of the fruit from that point forward.” This wine has overtones of sage, with delicate aromas of tea leaf, raspberry and forest floor. The 2006 Dierberg, aged in 75% new French oak for 17 months, then lightly fined with egg whites and bottled unfiltered, has 14.9% alcohol, $42 bottle/winery; it can be cellared for 10 years. It was incredible with the Grilled Niman Ranch pork tenderloin, prepared with blackberries and quinoa.

The third course, roasted prime striploin with seared goose liver, grilled zucchini and green peppercorn sauce, was paired with the Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. This is a beautifully balanced cabernet, with light tannin, with tiers of blackberry, currant, and herbs, and is truly reflective of the love of the owners for wines from Bordeaux. The hallmark of this Santa Ynez Valley vineyard, the notes of sage brush and chaparral, are present in this wine. $42 bottle/vineyard.

The meal finished with an exquisite dark chocolate hazelnut torte served with plum compote and cassis. It was served with the Star Lane Syrah 2004, with its aroma of ripe black fruits, and taste of plum, black berry, lavender and violet. A full-bodied Syrah full of character and depth; $31 bottle/average retail.

The Lone Eagle Grille is part of the many lovely features of the Hyatt Regency at Incline Village, located at 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, Nevada, USA 89451. Reservations are recommended, and are a must for the winemaker dinners: 775.886.6899 Go to for more information.

© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2009.


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