Former Baileys Prime sommelier Jennifer Jaco lands at Del Frisco’s Dallas and makes her mark with Peay Vineyards wine dinner
Now that sommelier Jennifer Jaco has taken over the reigns of the wine program at Del Frisco’s in Dallas (escaping the centrifugal forces currently swirling around her former employer, Bailey’s Prime Plus in Dallas), she’s wasted no time putting her considerable talent and charm to good use.
Last week, Jaco brought Peay Vineyards owner Andy Peay to town and hosted an intimate wine dinner for a dozen Peay lovers, including me. (I was an invited guest.) The last time Peay hosted a wine dinner in Dallas was five years ago, at the now-closed York Street. He was clearly ready to get back to Dallas.
“Texas—and Dallas in particular – are very important markets for Peay. We have many, many fans here, and it’s fun to see them here.”
Peay’s vineyards rest deep in the Sonoma Coast AVA, about four miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. “It’s one of the coldest places you can grow grapes,” Peay told me. “In fact, were probably the coldest Syrah vineyard in the world. We are still picking grapes with very low sugar content in November, which means our great stone always get ripe. That’s one reason our production is so low and varies from year to year.”
Peay’s total wine production in 2009 was just 6000 cases; in 2010, it was only 2400 cases. Peay calls 2009 a “Goldilocks vintage,” and one in which it was “easy to make wines that show well.”
Indeed, five of the six Peay wines we tried were from the 2009 vintage, and they were showing very well.
Though Peay’s Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs were luscious and varietally correct, the stars of the evening were two Peay Syrah wines, the 2009 from the Les Titans Estate, and an older 2002 Peay Vineyards Estate.
Their cool climate personalities were ably matched with Del Frisco’s chef David Holben’s pepper crusted strip loin steak with lobster grits and lemon garlic butter, which Holben chose to emphasize the white pepper spiciness, bright acidity and notes of smoked meat in the Syrah.
“My mission,” Peay told the group, “is to get you to stop drinking Cabernet with your steak and drink Syrah instead,” a philosophy with which even Jaco won’t quibble.
As for the 2002 Les Titans Estate Syrah was elegant, soft and balanced, with an aroma of macerated berries, rhubarb and rose petals. I wrote only one tasting note: Delicious!
Jaco says she plans to schedule similar wine dinners every four weeks or so. Spending the evening sipping wines with Peay and Jaco was a delight, and GM Gina Cook is one of the most charismatic, charming hosts in town. I hope you’ll join me at the next one.