Winter weather in Denver can be temperamental – snowing Monday, sunny Tuesday, snowing Wednesday, sunny Thursday, etc.  You can try to predict it, but you’ll be wrong.  The best thing you can do is come to terms with it, and enjoy the ride.  Charlie Master found himself with friends in downtown Denver on a recent night where the weather decided that snow was on the menu.  The group of 6 retreated into the friendly confines of Denver’s own Bistro Vendome, a Parisian-style bistro tucked away through a passageway off of bustling Larimer square.  They intended to have a few glasses of wine and some nibbles to eat to wait out the storm.  They ended up sharing stories – and plates –  well into the evening.

To start, there is no better dish to convert your body from cold to warm than French Onion Soup.  This classic French soup is packed full of caramelized onions, topped with a crouton and melted gruyere cheese.  Ours came with a perfectly charred cheese crust, keeping the soup inside piping hot until everyone had a chance to get a bite.

Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir

Also on the table was a Salad Lyonnaise, a nice balance to the hearty soup.  Frisee lettuce intermingles with crispy potatoes and lardons, all brought together with a Banyuls vinagrette and topped with a fried egg.  Bistro Vendome’s presentation was beautiful, but short lived, as everyone at the table quickly grabbed their forks to make sure they got some lardons before Charlie ate them all.

These two starters paired excellent with the 2012 Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir “Les Oliviers”.  This wine has a wonderful soft balance with aromas of black cherries and violets. It is not as jammy as its new world cousins and is more elegant and closer in style to a light Burgundy or even a lovely grand cru Beaujolais. This small vineyard in the southwest corner of the Languedoc is filled with 35 and 65 year old Pinot Noir vines with 150 to 250 year old olive trees planted throughout. It gets some of the misty morning weather from the Mediterranean sea and the perfect hot days that are needed for great Pinot.  The earthiness of the Vendome onion soup and the freshness of the crisp Frisee with smoky bacon made this wine shine!

Entrees were ordered and soon arrived.  A smorgasbord of variety covered the table – duck, lamb, scallops, risotto…comfort foods just as we were getting more comfortable.  Charlie chose the Confit de Canard et Lentílle du Puy – Duck Confit over orange scented lentils.  The confit duck leg could have been eaten with a spoon, as it effortlessly fell of the bone.  The citrus spike from the orange in the lentils balanced the richness of the duck, and offered a strong background to its strong flavors.

Exem Bordeaux

With his entree, Charlie was drinking the Exem Bordeaux – a sustainably farmed, delightfully  drinkable right bank Bordeaux from the Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. The Exem is made with 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet. The wine has a beautiful coffee, eucalyptus, chocolate and cassis nose with a great old world dryness that is well balanced with the soft tannins of the American oak barrels in which the wine was aged for 6 months. Charlie chose this wine because the richness of the Duck Confit was perfectly balanced by the soft tannins of this very affordable and delightful Bordeaux

No weather induced dinner is complete without a finale.  Even while stuffed to the brim, there always seems to be room to at least share a dessert.  Share we did, ordering a Chocolate Mousse Gâteaux to pair with the Tortoise Creek Le Charmel – a Rhone blend of Syrah and Grenache that loves to dance with Chocolate.  The Gâteaux was both rich and smooth, just like the Le Charmel. Le Charmel is from the southern part of the Rhone(Costieres de Nimes). It is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache. This wine smells like prunes, plums, white peppercorns, burnt sugar, fig jam and dried petals. It has great spice and is extremely easy to drink. I could have had a cheese course with this wine but the guests wanted chocolate, and because this wine has tons of fruit, it was a great match for Bittersweet Chocolate!

Tortoise Creek Le Charmel

Of course, the storm wasn’t a blizzard.  A scant 2 inches of snow fell that night, and it would be gone by the next evening as the Colorado sun came out to play.  But sometimes we all need an excuse to sit with friends, relax, converse, and share great food and wine.  This night, the weather just happened to be the excuse – so here’s wishing you a stormy night in the near future!