Balaban's Wine Dinners Shine the Spotlight on Little-Known Vintners

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       Tamber Bey's 2010 Rabicano Cabernet/Merlot Bordeaux Blend. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Tamber Bey's 2010 Rabicano Cabernet/Merlot Bordeaux Blend. | Nancy Stiles

Balaban's Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar (1772 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield; 636-449-6700) doesn't pick just any vintner for its monthly wine dinners. Instead, the west-county revival of Steve McIntyre's Central West End mainstay tries to find a winery that is refined but still a little unknown in St. Louis.

This month, Balaban's paired with Tamber Bey, a small Napa winery founded in 1999. The winery also houses Arabian race horses -- hence the name. Looking to grow its presence in St. Louis and Missouri as a whole, Tamber Bey brought its stable of wines to Balaban's and Gut Check was on-hand to get a taste.

See also: 2013 Best Wine List (Value) - Balaban's

       Chef D. Scott Phillips developed the menu after Tamber Bey's selections. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Chef D. Scott Phillips developed the menu after Tamber Bey's selections. | Nancy Stiles

Balaban's Scott Krietemeyer tells Gut Check that he and the rest of the Balaban's team, including retail wine manager Tom Bush and co-owner Steve McIntyre, began brainstorming and collaborated on what food items to pair with each of the wines.

The evening started with a rather unassuming 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which we admit was slightly overshadowed by the first course -- a chef's trio of ceviche: sea bass, scallops and Alaskan halibut.

       Ceviche, sea bass, scallops and Alaskan halibut. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Ceviche, sea bass, scallops and Alaskan halibut. | Nancy Stiles

The next wine was a surprise, however: The 2012 Unoaked Trio Chardonnay was so un-chardonnay-like we did a double-take. It wasn't too dry, paired with a bouillabaisse in a ciabatta bread bowl. The next chardonnay was more classic.

       Bouillabaisse in a ciabatta bread bowl. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Bouillabaisse in a ciabatta bread bowl. | Nancy Stiles

Balaban's served the 2011 Deux Cheaux chardonnay with a Maine lobster-stuffed pasta with lemon beurre blanc.

"The two [chardonnays] could not have been more different," says Krietemeyer. "Whenever you find a small winery that's creating wines so vastly different from each other, that's something special."

       Maine lobster-stuffed pasta with lemon beurre blanc. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Maine lobster-stuffed pasta with lemon beurre blanc. | Nancy Stiles

Continue on for a glimpse of Tamber Bey's reds.

       Roasted venison tenderloin with fall vegetables in a demi reduction. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Roasted venison tenderloin with fall vegetables in a demi reduction. | Nancy Stiles

For the fourth course, Balaban's brought out a 2010 Rabicano Cabernet/Merlot Bordeaux Blend, which was smooth and perfectly paired with roasted venison tenderloin and fall vegetables in a demi reduction. For dessert, the 2010 Deux Chevaux Cabernet was presented with a dessert we really loved: triple-chocolate mousse.

       Triple-chocolate mousse. | Nancy Stiles
  •        Triple-chocolate mousse. | Nancy Stiles

Balaban's has wine dinners each month. On November 10 the featured vintner is Trefethen Family Vineyards. Call 636-449-6700 for reservations. You can learn more about Tamber Bey wines here.

Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at nancy.stiles@riverfronttimes.com or follow her on Twitter.


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