The night after Christmas I joined the Gonzales family for dinner at Slate Street Café. I had previously met Rafael Gonzales at his Broken Eyes Studio in Los Lunas back in September and was fascinated with his paintings. Do check out his studio when you are next in Los Lunas. I was there to drop off copies of my new wine book, Wines of Enchantment: the Centennial edition, including one that would be a Christmas present for his daughter, Theresa. (See how far I’ll go to sell a couple of books?)
Later Rafael contacted me and wanted to meet my wife and I for dinner in Albuquerque after Christmas; and did I know any good restaurants? Since I do restaurant reviews for Albuquerque Arts & Entertainment magazine, I had plenty of suggestions that I whittled down to four of my favorites and he chose Slate Street Café. The café is a good choice, both for the food and the wine.
Myra Ghattas, the owner provides comfort food made in imaginative ways with fresh ingredients and paired with fine wines. She is also a certified sommelier, and it shows in both her wine list and wines-by-the-glass list. The wine markups are also modest, proving she understands the value of enjoying wines with her food. She also makes sure her servers are trained and knowledgeable about the food and wine. Our waiter made many thoughtful suggestions, which we took him up on.
Theresa selected a wine from Lake County, California using the Lemberger grape from Washington State. Not to be confused with Limburger cheese. Thankfully it wasn’t smelly on the nose, although the odd name does give some grape growers pause. Steele Winery did something very clever with the name and uses a variation of its ancient name: Blau Frankisch, literally “blue grape from France.” The wine is from Steele Winery’s Shooting Star series and they call the grape Blue Franc. That was when I noticed the label was a blue French Franc. Hmmm, maybe too cute?
The wine had dense tannins and a pleasing mouthfeel, cherry and spices and black pepper. It went well with the bruschetta, one of my favorites at the café, and the Portabella French fries; another favorite. Both appetizers made the rounds at our table of six, followed by accolades for the chef.
I decided on the ribeye to go with the 2010 Kunde Cabernet Sauvignon, a dependable mid-range Cab from Sonoma. The wine exhibits dark fruit with fig-like richness, black pepper, rounded vanilla notes and fine tannins. Kunde is a very consistent winery going back four generations with a fifth ready to take over the 1,850 acre property in the Kenwood region of Sonoma.
The portions here are generous so when our waiter came back to ask about desserts he was not surprised when we said we had no room left. Good food, good wine and good company made this a very memorable meal.