Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. It’s a cold October evening, one of the first really cool nights of the year. I’m walking into one of the private rooms upstairs next to the top of the Wine Tower when their Master Sommelier, Amy Lutchen, hands me a glass of 2017 Darioush Viognier and my ability to describe wine departs.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle wine dinners are swank level Michelle Pfeiffer Ultra. Wear a suit. Get a haircut. Accessorize. Lutchen has paired this glass with the passed dishes coming at me on the upraised hands of servers: Australian A-9 Wagyu beef tartare with shaved truffle and Dijon aioli, salt & pepper shrimp on a sesame wonton with apricot relish, and seared fois gras with pear-blood orange jam. The viognier cuts through these big, fat flavors like a hot knife through duck fat. It sets the tone for the rest of the dinner: luxurious, gigantic, perfectly paired, gold coastish.
Darioush Viognier 2017
Like I said, my ability to properly describe wine has been bumped out of my dome and I’m left with no vocabulary to explain this wine. When I consult my notebook, I am confronted with insanity and babbling. Loopy, hastily scribbled notes like a doctor taking notes on a rollercoaster. Here’s my description from last night: This Viognier tastes like a better-educated pinot grigio that reads the best books and has impeccable taste. Which is ridiculous. Which is crazy. But also, absolutely correct.
Darioush Chardonnay 2016
chardonnay is indescribable, though as I mentioned, I might be suffering some kind of wine wordnesia. I’d like to tell you the wine was a perfect Chard with big hips and a hint of meatiness, like a red, way down in the bottom but I can’t because my notes say this: Smells like Kim Bassinger’s hair in 1986.
Darioush Merlot 2014
Our second course: five spice-braised short ribs with English pea risotto and a tomato caramelized garlic broth. It comes to the table with a massive bouquet, the five spice and the garlic combining in the steam to come off as a curry and I’m thinking what in the world are they gonna marry to this flavor? My table mates, Joe and Patty try the merlot and fall into furious whispers and oh mys. I take a bite of the short rib and risotto and it’s miraculous. It comes all the way up to the threshold of way too much flavor but it just bounces off with a big fat grin. The Merlot is in conflict. In the glass vegetal notes clash with funk and barnyard and raisins. My notes: It smells like a strawberry and a fig making out under the leaves of a turnip plant.
Darioush Cabernet 2015 | Darioush Darious II 2014
Third course: Bone-in prime ribeye dry-aged 45 days, root vegetable ragout, roasted oyster mushrooms, dark chocolate sour cherry demiglaze–and something else. I don’t know what it is. It rises off the plate in a tempting plume that dares me to give it a name but I can’t. I want to say truffles but it’s not. It is earthy but bright. Clearly, the combination of the beef and the shrooms are . . . someone should tell me and my steak to get a room.
Then I try the Cab.
My notes, written in feverish caps: This wine is like Oprah, it’s rich and complex and it gives you an unexpected gift: it’s all like, you get a fig! You get fig! The table marvels over the blue note dovetail of this wine and the beef and we all become close friends and tell stories and we’re exchanging cards. Then they pour the Darious II and my eyes roll back into my head and things get awkward and weird. I don’t do drugs and I’m a happily monogamous man but for a minute I forget [My Attorney] who is seated to my left. There is only me and the Darious II and we’re locked into some kind of Persian love dance and the wine is telling me all kinds of things I don’t understand. I can only refer to my notes, which are maddening and nuts. Clearly, I was wineluccinating: So rich, so . . . and then I died and went to heaven . . .butter . . . stewed fig . . .I want to say it’s a Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail wine, serious and charming but it’s also Jude Law as Dr. Watson waay down in there, cracking a joke but being all solid and dependable. But still, Tom Hanks.
I ask Amy what’s wrong with me, what’s happened to my inner wine snob? I used to toss out vino vocab like an arrogant master, top notes of oak, a complex tannin architecture, terroir. Now I’m using movies? Who am I?
“Sommes do that all the time,” Lutchen explains. “You know what I call Darious II? Sex in a glass.”
You might be thinking, what does that even mean? But maybe you get it. Maybe you don’t take your cabernet with a dictionary and a botany degree. Maybe you just want to drink great wine and eat amazing food and talk about Chicago.
I’d direct you to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Wine Dinners. You’ll get world-class vino paired by one of the city’s outstanding sommes who, if you tell her your chardonnay smells like the 1980s, will totally get you. Order the Darious II. Because, Tom Hanks.
The next wine dinner is Thursday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $250 per person and will feature wine from Staglin Family Vineyards.