Kiler Grove winemaker Michael Knight, a northern California native from St. Helena (just outside of Sonoma), has spent the last ten years working to develop his vineyard (a small estate in Paso Robles) and grapes, dealing with the DABC (oddly enough, most of his problems came from California laws, SLC was a bit easier to navigate) restrictions and perfecting his blends.
The result? Some really good wine and a tasting room in South Salt Lake. What? Yes, you read that right. Wine in Salt Lake.
That being said, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting up Mr. Knight last night at a wine tasting dinner hosted by Metropolitan.
Now, At the ripe age at 23 I don't exactly have the discerning palate of a full-blown foodie or the viticulture knowledge of a refined win-o, but sitting alongside Mr. Knight, across from Mr. Scott Evans of Pago and next to the lovely Tracey Thompson of Vine Lore, I was able to listen in and learn as the dinner progressed, and just maybe, was able to pretend like I knew what I was doing.
The dinner started off with a grilled vegetable bruschetta paired with the 2008 Kiler Grove Trebbiano, which may or may not be a new varietal for many. Knight refers to the Trebbiano as "where Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc meet at the Grapefruit." Smooth, crisp and refreshing without being too tart or acidic, the wine was a perfect compliment to the first course. Oh, and the food: three crisp slices of baguette topped with a mustard green puree (or was this pea puree? My un-discerning palate was confused), nevertheless the sweet, green puree offset the salty, grilled vegetable topping of eggplant and sweet onions to a T.
Before I get much further, I must make note of the service at Metropolitan. I'm not a novice at dining out and have taken in my fair share of the local cuisine, but the service has never stood out like it did last night. I happen to have a soft spot for chivalry and the old-school service of serving the ladies first, taking dishes from the proper sides and just all-in-all making sure the diner was taken care has always stood out to me. The staff at Metropolitan did not disappoint.
Next up: The 2009 Interpretation paired, interestingly enough, with a white fish. As a sushi-bar -server of days past I've had my fair share of raw, white halibut cheeks, the 'prime' cut of the fish that we often stole for ourselves. However, this preparation was much, much different. Appearing on the plate in a perfectly molded square, half the table was left wondering, 'is this tofu? scrambled egg white? a big chunk o' mozzarella?' Nope. The odd texture and shape aside, salty, spongy halibut cheek was prepared with a relish of earthy, dirty-but-in-a-good-way morels, almonds, celery and juicy, sweet prunes.
Of course, my Food & Wine mag indoctrinated wine pairing knowledge questioned as to why red wine was being served with this dish? Why? Because the red Rhone homage blend with its dark cherry and plum flavors and mushroom undertones added just that perfect touch to the salty fish and relish.
Round 3: Seared duck breast served on top of a nutty, red quinoa with roasted strawberries, rhubarb coulis and tarragon. The sweet and savory combo melded perfectly and the roasted strawberries brought out an almost smokey taste. The duck was the furthest thing from greasy and was perfectly seared with a spice crust and just a touch of pink in the meat. The dish was served with a 2005 Zinergy (you might remember this wine from the Talisker booth at Tastemakers, notably an attendee fav). A beautiful blend of Zin and Petite Sirah with a touch of Grenache, the Zinergy is deemed Kiler's flagship wine, and for good reason. It's such a subtle and smooth wine that could easily be sipped glass by glass (by glass)on its own.
....and then my phone died, which ultimately ended our photo tour so bear with me.
Yep, we are still eating: Next up, a smoky grilled lamb loin chop served on an array of heirloom tomatoes and baby corn, which was easily my favorite dish of the evening. That being said, I do not care for any sort of red meat. It's not that I have anything against it, I've just never been a fan. This, however, I could have eaten for days. Melt-in-your-mouth, grilled to a tender, red finish and coated in an almost hickory taste. The lamb was served alongside Michael Knight's favorite of the wine's, the 2007 Zinergy. While the notes were still similar, the two wines had different tannins, mouthfeel and flavors (how educated did that sound!?). The newer Zinergy exuded a leathery texture and cocoa notes, almost spicy. Knight said that while he loved it paired with a traditional red meat, he'd tasted it alongside salmon, pasta and pizza and has yet to find a dish it didn't conform to.
Dessert brought the meal, the conversation and the tasting to a close. A deconstructed panna cotta was served in two tasting spoons, one filled with a blueberry coulis, another with a sweet and spicy ginger granita and a smear of lemon curd, which we were instructed to eat with our creativity. Paired with a simple, yet typical cava, which seemed to be a bit of a letdown following the Kiler wines before. So, Mr. Knight, for your next project I'd like a dessert wine so I can round out a full meal with Kiler Grove.
So what did we learn from this? A few things. Namely, do not wait to get down to the Kiler Grove Tasting room located at 2330 South and 53 West. Knight has most of the wines in stock and they are priced well-below what they are worth. You can sip the wines and decide on a favorite for yourself and if you're lucky you'll get to chat up Michael Knight and learn all about his vineyard, the grapes, his history and anything else you'd like to know about wine. Second, Metropolitan remains a downtown SLC staple. From service, to atmosphere to the ever-changing, never disappointing menu, you won't be disappointed. And lastly, food writing makes me very, very anxious. So thank you for sticking it out with me, you deserve a glass of wine.