This top notch restaurant is located in St. Helena and is owned and run by Leslie Rudd, who is also the owner of Dean and Deluca. Bistro styled, yet with a classy feel, it serves up rock solid dishes with a focus on the best raw ingredients and straight forward presentations. The wine program is run by Sommeliers Scott Brenner, Kelli White and Angela Stem, all of whom are first rate and know their list (which is presented via an iPad and includes a fantastic search function) perfectly.

This report includes two meals, as after dining here once, I quickly made another reservation (and considered going back a third time).

On the first evening, I started out with a simple garden salad (perfectly dressed and as fresh as they come) and then dove into a dry aged Flannery Ribeye. I've ordered from this specialty butcher for years and have yet to be disappointed; I'm happy to report that the quality is just as good here. Cut to about an inch in thickness (I order them 3-4 inches at home, as that allows a thicker crust from my standard grill), this puppy was bursting at the seams with flavor. While they provide a number of condiments (truffle butter, etc.), there's absolutely nothing else required. The l'Ami Louis inspired potato cake was delicious, but a far cry from the original. I was blown away by their Chocolate Soufflé dessert, which in most restaurants ends up being more air than flavor. Certainly, not the case here.

With regards to the wine for this meal, I focused on two Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from the 1994 vintage, both of which showed gorgeously. Starting out and decidedly more sexy and voluptuous, the 1994 Joseph Phelps Insignia possessed a youthful color to go with a smorgasbord of aromas and flavors that literally came jumping from the glass. Cassis, kirsch, licorice, wild herbs and hints of lead pencil gave way to full-bodied richness and depth on the palate, and it continued to hold steady and drink brilliantly over the evening. It should shine for another decade or more, but it's in a good spot now. More classic in style, yet still a ripe, muscular effort, the 1994 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red was tight and structured on opening, with higher pitched Crème de Cassis, graphite, violets and herb styled aromas and flavors. It took an hour to unwind and is still a baby that has another two decades of life. The evening was capped with a bottle of 1994 Philip Togni Ca Togni. This Banyuls styled dessert wine is still going strong, with loads of sweetness, solid freshness and a delicious, hard to resist personality. It was a prefect pairing to the Chocolate dessert.

For the second meal, a small starter plate of pacific oysters was superb, and the finest I've had state-side in some time. Next, and a benchmark effort, their Steak Tartare is made from hand cut prime tenderloin and is as good as it gets. Served with some toasted bread and a broken egg yolk, I could do a whole meal of it. The Roast Chicken was also brilliant and represents another top example of a dish in the US. Spending roughly 30 minutes on a rotisserie and then finished in a hot oven, it was cooked perfectly. I was particularly impressed to see this served with tinges of pink and blood near the bones. I roast a lot of birds at home, and trust me, if you wait to get rid of any touch of pink, the bird is horribly overcooked. Unfortunately, the side of Brussels sprouts, while good, was hardly inspiring.

As to the wine, I went with an incredible bottle of 1991 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon, which was simply off the charts good. Deep and muscular, it nevertheless has incredible polish to its tannin, seamless integration of its fruit and acidity, and blockbuster length. Offering a singular drinking experience, it will easily stand toe to toe with the greatest Cabernets in the world today. At age 23, it's still a baby. A word of warning, while this bottle was as good as it gets, the Sommelier commented that they've had significant bottle variation with this vintage.

If you're anywhere near the Napa Valley, don't miss a chance to dinner here!

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