And yet, good wines don’t have to be very expensive
Valentine’s Day is one of those classic occasions for a couple to toast with champagne over a romantic dinner and candlelight.
The fine dining restaurants at the Coast casinos are increasingly catering to wine connoisseurs and those who are becoming more aware of wine and food pairings. Sommeliers help them choose from thousands of bottles in the wine towers and wine tastings encourage the casual wine drinker to become more adventurous.
“It’s a very social thing,” said Carlos Ramirez, sommelier at Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House at the Island View Casino in Gulfport. He eases the stress for couples who are unsure what wine to pair with which food by asking, “What do you like?” and “Do you want to try something different?”
Emeril’s will feature a special Valentine’s menu and has just introduced a nightly tasting menu that typically offers three courses and dessert. “We can make it longer,” he said, up to seven or eight courses, and pair each course with wine.
“It’s a challenge for me,” Ramirez said, to both match the wines to the dish and to plan a progression of wine courses.
Wine has been an important ingredient in the success of Mignon’s Steaks & Seafood at Palace Casino in Biloxi, said Jim Brown, food and beverage manager. The restaurant was recognized by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator magazines for its outstanding wine list and for providing guests with a wine-friendly experience.
Mignon’s is bringing back its monthly wine socials starting Tuesday. “We did them very successfully prior to the storm,” said Brown. Four or five local wine representatives will pair vintages with hors d’oeuvres and desserts.
Brown said it is a great cross section of guests who come to the monthly wine pairing dinners at Mignon’s. “There’s been a lot more young people,” he said, “who have learned through the TV shows they should probably start with white wines and work their way up to the reds.” Guests enjoy a six-course dinner while wine experts visit their table and tell how the particular wine was chosen.
For Valentine’s Day, champagne is often favored. At Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis, a free glass of Kir Royale will go nicely with the special Valentine’s entrees at Tuscany Steaks and Seafood. Spokesman Bob Davidge said, “We continue to introduce new and exciting additions to Tuscany’s wine list,” including Marques de Casa, a Merlot from Chile. “We do not use price as a benchmark in choosing a wine,” he said, and some to try are Far Niente and Grgich Hills, available in either a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chardonnay, and a “surprising” Mouton Cadet Blanc.
Ramirez said a special salmon appetizer on the Valentine’s menu at Emeril’s is a perfect opportunity to expose guests to rose champagne. He also recommends Grüner Veltliner, a full-bodied white wine from Austria and Riesling white wine that goes well with seafood and spicy Creole seasoning.
“Casino customers come in just because of our wine selections by the glass,” Ramirez said. Wine prices start at $7 per glass and go up to $20 for premium pours. Bottles of wine range from $30 to $1,500, and Ramirez said, “I can find you a good bottle at any price range.”
They can get wine only from the state, yet Ramirez said restaurants in Gulfport and Biloxi work together to request a certain vintage and get new wines to the Coast.
“In the world of wine there’s always a new vintage, a new producer,” he said.
By MARY PEREZ