The iconic Different Pointe of View Restaurant sits on the Tapatio Cliffs above downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Besides offering spectacular sunset dinners, an acclaimed wine list and birds-eye views of the city lights, the Executive Chef combines all three into a monthly chef-led dinner with guest winemakers from around the world. Recently I was invited to the interactive affair to sample what Chef Anthony DeMuro had created to pair with wines from Viña Maquis and sister vineyard Calcu.
What better place to start the festivities than outdoors on the terrace of this mountain-top restaurant, the showpiece of the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort? Calcu Rosé was served while hors d’oeuvres were passed by attentive servers. The color of this beautiful aperitif gave us a sneak preview of the coming sunset while providing a festive feel to the gathering on the flagstone patio where my Hilton host, Andra Dan, introduced me to the winemaker. The youthful Rodrigo Romero, Chief Winemaker at Viña Maquis, had flown in from Chile to rub elbows and tell us about his wines.
The appetizers and Chilean rosé were a happy foretaste of the wine-paired courses yet to come. After the specular Arizona sunset, we left the terrace to fill the twelve hightop chairs at the chef’s demonstration table indoors. I was fortunate to be seated next to the winemaker.
We settled in for the treat of watching Different Pointe of View Chef Anthony DeMuro prepare a decadent four-course dinner entirely tableside. Chef’s casual and interactive style immediately put us all at ease, and I felt as if I were in the Chef’s home kitchen, sipping wine and getting insider cooking tips.
“Let the lamb be the lamb,” smiled Chef Anthony as he prepared our first plate right in front of us. The aromas of the searing Ellensburg Lamb Chop brought ‘oohs and ahs’ from around the table. Chef laid the lamb on a white bean truffle purée and garnished the plate with Rapini Greens and an olive tapenade. We drank the Maquis Carménère from grapes ripened in the Colchagua Valley of central Chile. Rodrigo told us that his secret to success (86 points Wine Enthusiast, 87 points Wine Spectator for the 2010) was not letting the grapes over-ripen; the Carménère grapes are harvested at the end of March. The winemaker also described the Maquis Estate vineyards, which are situated on an island where two rivers meet. He told how the duo waterways funnel cool breezes from the coast, which moderate hot summer days in the Colchagua Valley. The confluence causes nutrient-rich alluvial soils to be dropped over the underlying layers of gravel. The unique terroir has been cultivated by the Hurtado family since 1927. Since the Carménère’s hints of rosemary and sage paired so well with the lamb, our anticipation of the forthcoming pairings grew.
Calcu Cabernet Franc:
“I spent 90% of my time trying all of the wines from each of the blocks to find when to harvest each block,” revealed Rodrigo, who picks the grapes by taste. “With a fine focus, you get the right smooth tannins with a big structure. This is a very muscular wine with 13.5% alcohol,” he said lifting a glass of the Calcu Cabernet Franc. Chef Anthony was plating the second course of Muscovy duck confit with duck parmesan risotto, cracklings and tomato purée. “I used the duck cracklings as garnish instead of parmesan,” disclosed the seasoned chef. While I enjoyed the delectable pairing, the sizzle of the grill makes me look up to see Chef Anthony beginning his next course.
Maquis Cabernet Franc:
“These pork bellies will blow you mind,” promises the culinary wizard. “I smoked them for ten minutes because smokiness goes well with this next wine.” Chef had chosen three Cab Francs for this winemaker dinner, and the Maquis Cabernet Franc was now being poured. The fragrance of the pork belly filled the restaurant as the winemaker explained, “This is very smooth with soft tannins – it is very difficult to make it. But between two rivers, we can make it.” The twelve months in used, French oak barrels did their magic, too. The super smooth wine paired well with the lightly-smoked, seared Berkshire pork bellies and caramelized sweet potatoes. This third plate was served with charred Cipollini onions and sautéed asparagus. The huckleberry port reduction was pure inspiration.
Chef had created the fourth course of rosemary-scented short ribs to pair with Maquis’ pièce de résistance, the 2010 Maquis Franco. The smooth, complex wine was touted by 2017 Descorchados Wine Guide as “Chile’s Best Cabernet Franc.”
“This wine can age for twenty years,” ascribed the Chilean wine maker, “That’s why we put it in bigger bottles. The tannins are so pure that I know it is healthy. It feels like medicine to me.” Chef Anthony plated the ribs with gorgonzola grits, roasted tomato tapenade, baby artichokes and sautéed swiss chard. “I simmered the lamb bones for 36 hours and then used that to reduce the Porcini mushrooms,” Chef said as he spooned the heavenly mushroom reduction over the ribs and grits. “Porcini mushrooms are hard to find,” he added.
The magical meal was climaxed with a sweet course trio: pumpkin spice cake, a chocolate pecan ribbon and brown butter pecan ice cream. I recommend the Different Pointe of View Restaurant’s chef dinner because the food pairings were over-the-top, the interactive conversations were delightful and I got an insider’s taste of a unique vineyard.
Colchagua Valley, Chile
Different Pointe of View Restaurant
Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Colchagua Valley, Chile
Guest blogger Stacey Wittig writes about food, wine and travel from her home near Flagstaff, Arizona. Enjoy this article? Then read more at www.vagabondinglulu.com