It was my first business trip in over five years, but at least I’d get to reconnect with a former co-worker in Tulsa. Other than that, the main attraction for the trip was the promise that we would dine at a steakhouse in Tulsa – Mahogany – that was better than any in Houston.
I’m sorry folks, but the second best steakhouse in Texas is in Houston – Pappas Steaks – and the best steakhouse in Texas is even closer to my home in Pearland – Killen’s Steak House. The person who claims that Mahogany is better than any in Houston has been to Pappas, but he has not been to Killen’s. Still, that’s not a very wide gap. If Mahogany is better than Pappas, then I may need to let Ronnie know about it (like we’re on a first name basis or something).
So what’s the first thing I want to see after they seat us? You guessed it, the WINE MENU. I’m assuming that they have filet – this is a steak house, remember? If they don’t have filet then I need to make a scene about it. So I want to see the wine menu.
No Texas wines. In Oklahoma. Don’t the Okies know that they rest on the shoulders of Texas? Just look at the map! OK is nothing more than a backpack and cap for Texas, and they have NO TEXAS WINES?!?!?!? Of course I made friends real quickly after that. Although our traveling group had come from Houston, we did meet with three people from our Tulsa office, and the first joke I tell is, “Did you hear about the Aggie that moved from Texas to Oklahoma? It raised the mean IQ in both states.”
Note to self: Okies don’t have the same good sense of humor that Aggies do. The brunt of Okie jokes are Arkies. Go figure.
Not only did they not have any Texas wines, they didn’t have any Italian wines. Boy was I screwed. Ever since I discovered Amarone, Valpolicella, Montepulciano, etc., I haven’t really followed California wines, and the majority of the wine menu at Mahogany were Californians. Some Australians, Argentinians, and Chileans, but mostly Napa, Sonoma, Alexander Valley, etc. I had to turn the menu over to a co-worker to navigate the left-coast grape juice list.
Mind you, I used to be able to pick good California wines, mostly from Napa Valley. I had cut my teeth on French wines – thank you Jean-Claude – over ten years ago, but had successfully migrated my palate to Californian grapes soon after. The rest of my wine-loving bio can be read in an earlier blog post, if you are interested. But at Mahogany I was lost. Sure, I know about Opus One, which was on the menu, btw, and some other high-dollar grape hooch labels they carried, but we were eating on the boss’s check, and I don’t want to give them the idea that I only drink liquid gold.
While our waiter was helping us choose our wine, she told us about this rare find they had called Experiment No E 0.4 (2004 Napa Valley Red Wine) at $175 a bottle, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Hmmmm. I can’t remember exactly what she said that piqued our interest, but it sounded really nice; however, I didn’t want to offend the boss, so we settled on a magnum of 2008 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet-Sauvignon ($200) for our first bottle. Large crew at the table, you know.
When she left to retrieve the Caymus, I offered to split the cost of the E 0.4 with two other wine aficionado’s at the table, but they insisted that we put it on the check!! So I verified with our boss that the company would be OK paying casino for it, and when the waiter arrived with our magnum, I ordered the E 0.4. I enjoyed my first glass of the Caymus while we waited on the Experiment, and I really enjoyed they Caymus, too. So California can produce decent wines.
The Experiment No E 0.4 arrived, and my fellow wine lovers elected me to do the tasting, though I tried to defer to their more refined palates. I guess they wanted me to taste it so I could get the blame in case it was a $175 bust. This wasn’t my first more-than $100 wine, but it was the first that might cost me my job if it was bad. I asked the waiter to decant the bottle and let me taste it immediately after.
Sorry, wine snobs, but I can’t give you an accurate tasting description of the Experiment 0.4 because it was less a tasting than a complete sensory experience. Surely they drugged it or something. Let me do my best from memory – there was no way I was gong to take notes at a business dinner.
I have to give some nods to Russ K. here because although I have poked some fun at some of his descriptions, I think I am beginning to understand a little. The nose of the E 0.4 was not strong and fruity – it was subtle and sensual. I can’t even begin to describe the aromas because they were like none I had experienced. Yes, there was a hint of tobacco, leather, plum, cherry, oak… but there was more, and no one aroma overshadowed the others.
The taste was enchanting. Earthy, but so much more than that. No single grape stood out – it’s like they were perfectly matched. And I mean perfectly matched. The mouth: Perfect balance. godaddy bulk domain . Acid, astringency, a little bite, but so well mated. No, I didn’t taste any forest floor, but I immediately understood what Russ meant when he had used the term. There was an earthiness that I couldn’t say was dirt, or cowboy butt (sweaty saddle leather), or squirrel droppings, but whatever that earthiness was, it pulled every other flavor together and made them totally unique and wonderful.
Does tasting E 0.4 sour me on Texas wines? Hell no! It sets a very high – and attainable, I believe – goal and hope for my vineyard owner and winemaker friends here. I tasted a juice at Tara Vineyards that could be a a component in some incredible wines. I’m holding onto a bottle of an unlabeled blend – an experiment as well – from Duchman Winery that holds great promise.
Oh! The steak at Mahogany? It was good, but J5 northwest of Austin close to Spicewood is a little better, and they are my current #3 steakhouse in Texas. Killen’s still reigns supreme.