Treasured Wines from Ferrari-Carano at Crystal Bay Steakhouse

You know from past columns about the outstanding wine list at Crystal Bay Casino’s Steakhouse restaurant in Crystal Bay, NV. When you combine sommelier Patty Ruhl’s talents with her extensive wine industry contacts and the result is a WineMaker Dinner, clearly the event will be incredible.

The Steakhouse holds WineMaker Dinners throughout the year, so be sure to check their website for upcoming events. The Ferrari-Carano WineMaker dinner hosted earlier this summer was special, as the Carano family are Nevada natives who live in Reno, and have ownership in both the El Dorado and the Silver Legacy Casinos there. So this melding of high-end casino restaurant and the Ferrari-Carano high end wines was perfect.

Ferrari-Carano's 19 estate vineyards in four appellations total over 1400 acres, and the 1.1 millilon vines under cultivation are used to produce over 24 different wines. This review focuses on the 5 wines presented at the WineMaker Dinner. Prices quoted are winery prices.

The 2009 Fume Blanc was served to accompany a nice selection of passed appetizers. This wine is made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and aged in a combination of old oak and stainless steel. There are melon and fig notes that predominate and reach through the crisp freshness of the wine. I liked the subtle oak character from the barrel ageing and felt that it added good complexity to the wine. 13.9% alcohol. $15 the bottle. And oh by the way, Rhonda Carano has a recipe on the Ferrari-Carano website for Spicy Lime Ginger Grilled Shrimp that would pair fantastically with this wine…

The 2008 Chardonnay, Sonoma County, was paired with pine nut crusted halibut filet with braised leek, fennel and white truffle oil. Made from 60 individually vinified lots, it’s a classic California chardonnay, which is to say, yummy. It has apple, pear, honey, butter cream and honeysuckle floral notes, and a great balance of fruit and caramel flavors. Did I taste marshmallow too? The toasted oak finish was nice. 13.9% alcohol. $23 the bottle.

2007 Merlot, Sonoma County, is a velvety wine with a nose of fresh cherries, pomegranate and rhubarb pie. You will pick up flavors of strawberry, brown sugar and crème brulee too. There is 3% Cabernet Sauvignon blended to assure a rounded flavor. It has a nice balance of fruit, tannin, and oak. 13.9% alcohol. $24 the bottle. The 2007 Merlot was paired by Crystal Bay Steakhouse Chef Geno Dugan with Merlot-marinated skinless Peking Duck breast, served with pommes frites and blueberry cassis sauce.

Tresor is a term you won’t hear commonly, but the Ferrari-Carano 2006 Tresor is indeed a treasure and that is the source of this fine wine’s name. It is a blend of the five classic Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc – from the best selections of Ferrari-Carano’s vineyards in Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. The winemaker’s notes: “Delicious aromas of Bing cherries, blueberry preserves and an herbal, black tea leaf nuance combine with an elegant mid-palate of fresh-picked berry and roasted mocha notes. With a full bodied and richly-textured tannin profile, this wine’s upfront silkiness and roundness make for a delicious selection now and will drink well for 7-10 years.” 14.8% alcohol, $58 the bottle. Paired with Roast loin of lamb en croute, with fungi duxelle rapini.

Dessert was a dark chocolate cappuccino cake. The 2008 Eldorado Noir (Russian River Valley) had an aroma of rose petal, and berries. It is not too sweet, and despite its intensely aromatic nature, it is fresh and clean tasting. A limited release wine, blended from 100% Muscat grapes, $28 the half bottle. Only 11% alcohol!

The Crystal Bay Steakhouse is located at 14 State Highway 28, just at California/Nevada border. Reservations are suggested. 775 833 6333. For more information on the wines, go to
© 2010 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 August 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.
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