Steele Wine Dinner: Rosy Cheeks and Happy Stomachs

When I arrived at Buck’s T-4 on Sunday evening for the Steele wine dinner I found the dining room already brimming with guests sipping on the night’s first wines. One of the first wines was an Aligoté—a varietal I’d never even heard of. I found the delicate and clean flavor of this grape to be a wonderful surprise, why don’t we drink more of this grape? Apparently, the Aligoté variety has a long history of under representation as Jed Steele, founder of Steele wineries, shared with us. The Aligoté was originally considered fit only for servants to drink in long ago French history.

Buck’s executive chef, Todd Christensen, definitely outdid himself with the hors d’oeuvres creation and presentation. Just looking at my pictures makes my mouth water as I remember savoring the butter poached oysters with wild mushrooms, pancetta and reggiano. And as if those weren’t enough by themselves, Japanese salad wonton cups and duck confit fried rice accompanied the delicious oysters.

This winter’s wine dinner not only showcased culinary talent but was also designed as a metaphorical representation of Todd’s personal journey as a chef.  In Japanese culture this is called a kaiseki ryori. Each course stood for a different chapter in both his life and career, from growing up to heritage. Todd called upon his Japanese mother’s memory to remind him about the foods and dishes that captured his attention in his younger years; he really did love those wonton salad cups as a child.

We were fortunate enough to be in the company of not one but two Steele winemakers, with Jed’s son Quincy also in attendance. Quincy shared his experiences collaborating with his father on the Writer’s Block label. Like Quincy himself, it seems to be the more adventurous and quirky of all of the Steele labels. Interestingly, each of the eight wines crafted for this label feature unique writing from different authors on the bottles. The Roussane we drank that evening featured Mahinder Kalids Lapland’s work.

Throughout the eating and drinking, laughing and talking, I did my best to accurately capture all aspects of the evening on film. (Okay, I’ll admit that I really used an SD card but that doesn’t have the same sound to it, now does it?) Standing at the back of the room at one point with my camera it was a pleasure to see how good food and wine work a special magic to fill a room with a sense of merriment. Tasty wine made for rosy cheeks and delicious Rocky Mountain Elk and dessert sushi made for happy stomachs.

Too, the night was a reminder of how appreciative Big Sky is to have Mike Scholz, Chuck Schommer and Dave O’Connor back at the helm of Buck’s T-4. Together they have put countless years into making Buck’s what it is. Mike even got a little bit choked up when he was thanking all the guests for making Buck’s possible. I am from LA, and we just don’t have restaurants like Buck’s there, and we definitely don’t have people like Mike, Chuck and Dave running them.

The evening was a huge success. I hope you enjoy the pictures and if you weren’t able to attend this winter’s wine dinner I bet you won’t miss the next one.

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