When it comes to fine cuisine in the Texas Hill Country, there is a certain restaurant that comes to mind that not only serves up beautiful dishes, but offers an extensive wine list of exclusively Texas wines. The spot…Cabernet Grill. Founded in 2002 by Chef Ross Burtwell, and his wife Mariana, they, along with their team run a kitchen and restaurant that is unlike any other in the Texas Hill Country. The cozy ambience of the Cotton Gin Village cabins, and the casual vibes of the restaurant make for quite the welcoming experience. They have won many accolades over the years including recently being named one of “America’s 100 best wine restaurants for 2018” by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
They have the largest 100% Texas wine list around, and they were an early adopter of supporting local. Responsible for curating their expansive Texas wine list is Wine Director Elizabeth Rodriguez, a 10 year veteran of Cabernet Grill. She has crafted a Texas wine selection of over 100 different Texas wines to choose from. She offers a wealth of knowledge in not only putting together their wine list, but also in educating their staff on the wine program.
We were celebrating my wife’s birthday a few days early, and were provided the opportunity to dine at Cabernet Grill for the first time. Why it took so long to visit, I do not know. I wish we would have discovered it much sooner though, as the evening we were treated to was akin to my experience at La Grande Maison de Bernard, a 2- Michelin star restaurant in Bordeaux, France. We were to enjoy the Texas Wine Month “Perfect Pairings” food and wine pairing menu, which consists of 4 dishes and respective wines.
They pulled out the stops for us, as we were spoiled with an 8 course pairing menu instead! The attention to detail in all aspects was perfectly executed. The cuisine was absolutely stellar, and the pairings with each wine, superb. Below is the menu we enjoyed. I wish you can cyber- taste what was presented. If scratch and sniff existed on the web, I’d happily share with you all!
First Course: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Maple Cayenne Cream and Crispy Pepitas).
Wine: William Chris Vineyards’ Mary Ruth
My thoughts: The soup was wonderfully creamy with a hint of spice, which accentuated the wine’s high acidity. The pairing was warming, refreshing, and clean.
Second Course: Pecan Crusted Crab Cake (Mango Mayo, Pico). I do not eat seafood, so they supplemented with a “Texas Twinkie”, their take on a wonderfully tasty stuffed jalapeño with sausage and wrapped in bacon. It was delightful both alone, and with the Viognier.
Wine: Hilmy Cellars Viognier
My thoughts: The Crab Cake’s texture was fluffy, and very tasty according to my wife. The “Texas Twinkie” was a fun and exciting bite loaded with flavor. The fat complements the creaminess from the malolactic and oak treatment of the Viognier, and the salt in the dish cut the wine’s acid to a very moderate level.
Third Course: Mexican Street Corn (Charred Corn, Pasilla Chile, Chicharrones, Queso Fresco, Crema, Cilantro and Lime).
Wine: McPherson Cellars Vermentino
My thoughts: The food was both salty, and acidic, which was the perfect compliment to the punchy and aromatic Vermentino. The street corn and lime brings out more floral notes in the wine.
Fourth Course: Wild Organic Arugula Salad (Pickled Beets, Roasted San Saba Pecans, Beladi Tree EVOO, 25 Year Balsamic).
Wine: Valley Mills Vineyards Rosé
My thoughts: This salad is life changing! Who said beets cannot be amazing? They were pickled to perfection, and the acid in the dish really drives home the whole pairing. This is the only area of critique I have for the wine, however. The rosé was quite flabby, and the lack of acidity was unpleasant by itself, from a structural standpoint. The dish, however, changed everything by bringing the uplifting acidity back into play. Bravo! The fat from the pecans, and the delightfully tart, aged balsamic were extremely enjoyable.
Fifth Course: Bison Albondigas with CKC Goat Cheese.
Wine: Messina Hof GSM
My thoughts: These Spanish- style meatballs and goat cheese are a loving pair. Fat meets more fat, which worked to soften the tannins in the fruit forward GSM. The wine itself is supple, so the protein was a great match. Too much fat content such as that from a marbled steak would have definitely overwhelmed the wine.
My thoughts: This frozen treat was a fun palate cleanser between courses. Citrus. Cold. Fun. It was really good.
Sixth Course: Grilled Oak Smoked Medallions of Pork Tenderloin (Gorgonzola, Crimini Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic Cloves, Porcini Cream and Three Cheese Grits).
Wine: Kuhlman Cellars Alluvé
My thoughts: This dish was the most layered and complex of the bunch. The protein, and the mushrooms provide adequate fat on the palate, and the Gorgonzola was just funky enough to create layers of flavor. The Alluvé is smooth, sexy, and the vanilla on the nose was the icing on the cake as a contrast to the richness of the dish. Grits need to be more of a staple in life… These cheesy grits make the need for potatoes nearly obsolete!
Seventh Course: 72 Hour Niman Ranch Short Rib (Paprika Aioli, Braise Jus, Yukon Mash).
Wine: Brennan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
My thoughts: What’s not to love about beef Short Rib? The meat was cooked via Sous Vide for 72 hours, which equates to very tender, medium rare Short Rib. Match that with a medium bodied, medium tannin Cab Sauv from Brennan, and you have a superb pairing.
Eighth Course: Warm Ibarra Pumpkin Crumble With Spiced Apple Walnut Ice Cream.
Wine: Val Verde Winery Tawny Port
My thoughts: Seductive, delectable, and delicious, how else could I describe the finishing dish of the evening? The Port was a classic complement to the crumbly dish, mixed with a frozen “scoop of love” all on a single a plate.
Below is the official Texas Wine Month “Perfect Pairings” Four Course Menu.
Price: $65 per person
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Maple Cayenne Cream and Crispy Bacon
Wine: William Chris Vineyards Mary Ruth
Bison Albondigas Tapas with CKC Goat Cheese
Wine: Messina Hof Winery GSM
Grilled Oak Smoked Medallions of Pork Tenderloin, Topped with Gorgonzola, Crimini Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic Cloves and Porcini Cream Served with Three Cheese Grits
Wine: Kuhlman Cellars Alluve
Warm Ibarra Pumpkin Crumble with Spiced Apple Walnut Ice Cream
Wine: Val Verde Winery Tawny Port
I cannot compliment the experience enough. A huge THANK YOU to Chef Burtwell, Elizabeth, Joe, our server, and the entire staff, for one of the single best dining experiences of our lives. I am not saying that for the sake of journalism. No, the experience really is mind-blowing, and it needs to be enjoyed by everyone reading. Make that reservation, and spend an evening within the walls of Cabernet Grill, you will not be disappointed.
Disclaimer: We were provided the experience courtesy of Cabernet Grill for the purposes of media.