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we started the evening with a spicy gazpacho sour

Bottle Rockets: Honig Vineyard Cabernet is showstopper at Bailey’s Prime Plus wine dinner

we started the evening with a spicy gazpacho sour

Honig Vineyard owner Mike Honig

2002 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon "Premier Napa Valley"

Akaushi strip steak with charred radicchio and huckleberry marmalade

When I tasted through last year’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc releases from  Honig Vineyard with winery owner Mike Honig at Del Friso’s last March, I remember being impressed with how plush and elegant Honig’s wines tasted.  Last night, Mike Honig and Bailey’s Prime Plus in Dallas broke open some older wines for a 30-seat wine dinner and  invited me to join them as their guest.

Honig shares a large chunk of prized Rutherford land with Napa neighbor Caymus.  Mike Honig’s grandfather purchased a 68-acre section form Caymus in 1964, planting the acreage with Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauv Blanc, the same varietals Honig grows today.

Mike farms his grapes organically, because, as he told me last year, it’s the right thing to do for the wines, and it’s the right thing to do for the land.

Know what’s also right? Very right? Jennifer Jaco’s choice of wines to feature last night. Jaco, the wine director of Bailey’s Prime Plus, rounded up some beauties, including two older vintages that delighted even Mike Honig with how well they had developed since their bottling. The stars were two wines made entirely with grapes from Honig’s Bartolucci vineyard: the 2004 Honig Bartolucci Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (in magnum) and a rare bottling of 2002 Honig  Bartolucci Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon “Premiere Napa Valley.”

The 2004 Cab was delightful–lush dark fruit, medium acidity, soft tannins, oak toast and spice– but the 2004 PNV was thrilling, packed with all the distinctive black cherry and blackberry fruit I expected in this 100% Cab wine, plus a whiff of cedar, sage, coffee and baking spices.  I was impressed with how lively yet integrated the wine had become. (Good chance the large bottle format helped with that, too.)

Since taking over the wine department a few months ago, Jaco has been busy procuring hundreds of labels of good quality wines,which she showcases through wine dinners and reasonable pricing.

“My goal,” Jaco said, ” is to find great values in wines then pass the savings on to customers,” sometimes selling hard-to-find wines at below normal retail prices. That’s how she happened to  serve the 2002 Premier Napa Valley Honig Cabernet to us. Honig says only six cases of the wine were produced, a special bottling specifically for an industry-only Napa charity auction of rare wines. The entire lot was purchased by the fine wine division of Dallas-based Centennial, then sold to Jaco last year when Centennial liquidated much of their restaurant allocation inventory.

(Jaco says that bottle would sell at auction for about $450; she’s selling the same bottle at Bailey’s for $300, about what she paid for it.)

Bailey’s chef Grant Morgan teamed the wine with slices of  seared Akaushi beef (from Yokum, Texas, producer HeartBrand Beef), mirroring the wine’s tannins, oak, and dark fruit with a leaf of slightly charred radicchio and savory huckleberry preserves. (You can see the entire menu here.)

Jaco’s evolving wine program (and her wine dinners) and Morgan’s cooking place Bailey’s among the best steakhouses in the city. Bailey’s might have had a rocky start, but the Dallas location is finally on terra firma.


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