I mustered up all the pennies I could find from beneath my couch cushions and took my man out for a sensational Christmas/Valentine’s (and every other holiday for the next couple months) meal at Frasca in Boulder–arguably the best restaurant at this time in the entire state. Of course, that is subjective, but ask the most serious Colorado foodies and it will likely be the majority response you glean.
The four course meal featured the wines, pairings and newly published book by Rajat Parr–a highly reputable sommelier whom currently heads the wine program for Michael Mina’s Restaurant Group. I could prattle on about the exciting new renovations, the breathtaking kitchen, the exceptional service and unforgettable pairings (okay, actually, that’s a lie, as I am incapable of staying away from the real context for wine)… But I would rather hold your attention long enough to explore Parr’s private label from Santa Barbara, California: Parr Selections. These wines were the perfect way to invigorate my intention to explore domestic wine, for they truly were remarkable.
We began with his 08 Sanford Benedict Chardonnay. On the nose, I was able to find rich lemon curd, toasted almond, Burgundian fungal qualities and a comforting amount of California butter (certainly not a ‘take me to the movies’ dose, however). The oak treatment wouldn’t allow that to occur, really, as it sees mostly neutral barrel and only 25% new French oak.
It was a wine that Bobby Stuckey, owner and Master Sommelier, perfectly described with one word: tension.
For all the lavish characteristics apparent on the rim, it was surprisingly zesty on the palate, acid turning on the water works within my mouth. The finish, however, ended on a creamy, leesy note–a perfectly pulsed paradox that only had me anxious to try it again. There couldn’t have been a better pairing than with the ‘Polenta Integrale’–an elegantly textured polenta decorated with chunks of squash, citrus-kissed leaves of a brussel sprout and specks of black truffle. As you might imagine, this combination tempered the angular acidity but worked to penetrate the creamy polenta, wilst leveling the fungal notes on the nose and introducing a wealth of tropical qualities instead. It was a very inspiring combination full of variety and intrigue.
The next was the 08 Parr Selections Pinot Noir ‘Argent’, a more-delicate-than-most Pinot Noir that was more reminiscent of France than California. But to be frank, it wasn’t even so much Burgundian in style as it was alpine in nature, such as Savoie, Alsace or even like Pinots from the Swiss region of Valais. Sniffing it out, I honestly was taken back to the very familiar scent of just a couple weeks prior: Christmas. Piney notes of the evergreen, holly , clove and cinnamon spice came to the surface. It almost had a sappy quality to the scent. Paired with the ‘Lasagnette’ stuffed with shredded farm fresh poularde (kind of like the veal of hen, as it has been spayed to delay maturity and promote fattening, though no tying down and force-feeding from what I could find) and wild mushrooms a bed a splash of balsamic vinegar, the wine was scarcely changed. This Pinot Noir held its character and stubbornly held on to Christmas, even if the colored lights were coming down around it.
The final wine was the 2006 Parr Selections Syrah ‘Purisima Mountain’. This was, with no hyperbole, the best Syrah I have yet had from California. Just watching as it was being poured in my glass, I could tell it was not going to be an inky, jammy, in-your-face style. It wore not purple, rather a garnet hue. It was lighter than most Cali Syrahs–more akin to a fuller Pinot in body. It almost smelled of Cornas. It stressed not the gaminess you sometimes find in a powerful northern Rhone Syrah, but instead the more delicate aromatics of dark forest flowers, savory herbs, bay leaf, dry dirt and spice. The tannins were stiff and vocal but not obnoxious. The mid-palate and finish delivered layers of tea leaf, herbs, anise and mint. It was truly stunning.
With the ‘Manzo alla Brace’, or beef ribeye atop a smattering of fingerling potatoes and red beets, the flavors of the Syrah only were more pronounced and ripe. Neither spoke above the other. They were comfortable together. Overall, great first date on my palate.
Dinner was followed by the best dessert I have had in a long time: ‘Crostata di Pompelmo Rosso Rubino’, or ruby red grapefruit and almond frangipane on top of the best flippin’ tort shell ever made with a dollop of house-made frozen yogurt. Clean, fresh and virtually guilt-free, considering…
Many people think Frasca can be a bit prohibitive with their pricing. It’s true. You could go all out…if you wanted to. With their wine list and menu options, you could pull out all the stops and go for broke. But they still make great efforts to make their restaurant accessible to all. It started out as a neighborhood fine dining Italian eatery with an emphasis on Friulian cuisine, and although the space has seen renovations, their mission is still the same.
I recommend checking them out on a Monday night if you’ve never been. They offer a four-course meal for $45, often featuring a special guest, region or producer and incorporating fresh, local ingredients from nearby farmers. You have the option to pair these courses with their modestly priced suggested tasting flight or select a bottle of your own from their extensive list.
It’s a memorable experience every time that I am lucky enough to go.
And so, I am really looking forward to this ‘explorations of domestic wine’ thing. If this dinner were an indication, I would say there are many more positive blogs to follow… And no, these weren’t break the bank wines, either. I looked them up online and it seemed they are priced at roughly $40. A steal if you ask me.