TN: Cyrus Chef's Tasting Menu w/Wine Pairings (and more)

CYRUS CHEF’S TASTING MENU W/WINE PAIRINGS (AND MORE) - Cyrus Restaurant, Healdsburg, California (3/15/2010)

Richard, Conrad, Rebecca, Mike and Jeff

I’ve been dying to do a dinner at Cyrus since it opened, and had heard universally good things from all friends who had been there. It finally took Conrad, in town from Maryland for the weekend’s La Paulee events, to make it happen. The food was creative, flavorful and beautifully presented; the service was impeccable; and the wine service, and attention to the needs and questions of a table-full of wine geeks, was everything we could have wanted. Sommelier Chase DuBay is a gem. This is a top flight restaurant that strives to please, and has the talent, training and creativity–not to mention, also, superlative raw materials–to ensure a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Having the perfect group of people to enjoy it with, as was the case for me, made it one of the most memorable meals of my life.

The wines below are a combination of a few wines that we brought (or ordered off the wine list, in the case of the Selosse and the Dönnhoff), along with the wine pairings for each of the eight courses (and for four courses there was a choice between two dishes, so we ended up with all 12 possible wine pairings).
Champagne starter
We started with a glass of this at the bar (well, Mike started with a Sazerac).

  • N.V. Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée Brut - France, Champagne
    Light yellow color; yeasty, light toast, mineral nose; elegant, tasty, mineral, yeasty, cream, tart citrus palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Amuse Bouche flight
Some of us still had our Krug to compare with this unique Champagne – both great, and so different in style. The slightly oxidized nature of this wine paired well with our more savory amuses, as well as the next course.

  • N.V. Jacques Selosse Champagne Brut Initiale - France, Champagne
    Light golden yellow color; intriguing nose, a little oxidative, very tart kumquat, lemon peel, hazelnut nose; nutty, sherried, tart lemon, mineral palate with depth and grip, and a ginger note that develops with air; long finish (94 pts.)

1st course
For some of us, the first course was a fabulous Soup Billi-Bi with fennel puree and tempura mussel, for others it was a Seared Hamachi with battera konbu, radish and candied kumquats, and chilled dashi. Chase DuBay’s wine pairings below worked very well with both of these dishes, as did our Selosse Initiale. The white Lopez de Heredia was the best of their whites I’ve ever had. What a way to start a meal!

White Burg
This wine, one of the ones we brought along, was, unfortunately, affected by the '96-'03 white Burg curse of pre-mox.

Sommelier Chase with Jeff, Wine Director for Manresa, looking for something from the wine list to replace our pre-moxed Leroy. Jeff went with a gorgeous Dönnhoff.

My dish with this course was a beautiful looking and tasty Roasted Lobster with daikon, blood oranges and tamarind ponzu.

Riesling Flight
Those who didn’t have the lobster dish had the Seared Foie Gras with Asian pear coulis and lentils, vanilla bean gastrique. Chase’s wine pairing for this was the Mount Horrocks, which tasted very much like a Kraacher. The Zilliken was the wine pairing choice with the lobster.

Sekt and Ikeime Tai
Our dish for this course was Ikeime Tai with galangal rice noodles, banana blossoms and coconut milk froth. The sekt, which had good texture and a coconut scent of its own, was a brilliant pairing for this dish.

  • 2002 Georg Breuer Brut Sekt - Germany, Rheingau
    Light medium golden yellow color; salty, tart peach, coconut nose; creamy textured, tart peach, tart cherry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (worked wonderfully well as a pairing with a fish dish with coconut milk and banana blossoms) (89 pts.)

Roasted Chicken and Pinot
Our next course was Roasted Chicken with Potato Puree, asparagus and morels with fresh black truffles. Delicious! The '89 Roumier, which we had brought, seemed rather tired, although there was still a core of tart red fruit. The Peay Scallop Shelf was the Cyrus wine pairing with this dish.

  • 1989 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
    Medium dark cranberry red color with pale meniscus; mature, major mushroom, tobacco, brett nose; mature, tart red fruit, tobacco, brett, mineral palate with a tart cherry/tart raspberry core; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Scallop Shelf - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe cranberry, black cherry, tart cherry, raspberry nose; rich but balanced, black cherry, black raspberry, tart cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Big Red Flight
We were served little frozen mango sorbet cubes on the end of a stick for a palate cleanser after the chicken course. For our next plate, some of us had the Lamb Loin Roulade with green garlic risotto, spring onions and fava beans, with which the Cyrus recommended wine pairing was the Piancornello Brunello, and others had the Hoisin Glazed Short Rib with water chestnuts and ginger bone marrow flan, for which the '07 Copain Syrah was Chase’s recommended pairing. Both wines were very good, but very young and tight, of course.

  • 2004 Piancornello Brunello di Montalcino - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Dark red violet color; chocolate, tar, licorice nose; tight but very tasty, tart black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (modern style Brunello, needs 3+ years) (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Copain Syrah Baker Ranch - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Nearly opaque red violet color; olive, black fruit, pepper, green peppercorn nose; tasty, tart black fruit, berry, olive palate, with good textured; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Cheese Course Flight
The artisinal cheese table next made an appearance, and we were offered a choice from over a dozen different cheese. I chose the Saint-Maure (quite delicious), the La Serena (a thistle infused sheep’s milk cheese) and the Bo Poisse. At this point we poured the '07 Rhys Swan Terrace we’d brought along, and had decanted through the dinner. The Cyrus wine pairing recommendation was the Bordelet Poiré Granit, which also worked well, and was refreshing and minerally.

  • 2007 Rhys Pinot Noir Swan Terrace Alpine Vineyard - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark red violet color; tart cherry, menthol, black cherry nose; velvety textured, youthful, tart black cherry, menthol, mineral palate with depth; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Eric Bordelet Poiré Granit - France, Normandy
    Light golden yellow color; big pear, chalk nose; focused, chiseled, tart pear, chalk, mineral palate with depth; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

First Dessert Flight
Our first dessert was the Seville Orange Cream, with macaroon and marmalade. The wine pairing was the Bert Simon BA, and we had another Rhys Pinot opened as well.

  • 2006 Rhys Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color; menthol, tart black cherry, berry nose; velvety, tart red fruit, menthol, cinnamon, stems, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2003 Bert Simon Serriger Herrenberg Müller-Thurgau Beerenauslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Medium gold color; honeyed, baked apricot, pear, lime nose; luscious, unctuous, honeyed, apricot nectar palate, lacking acidity; long finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Second Dessert Flight
For our second dessert, some of us had the Chestnut Souffle with passion fruit and green tea, and the rest of us enjoyed a German Chocolate Doughnut with toasted coconut gelato. The wine pairing for the souffle was the Toakji Aszu, and the Alpianae Italian sweet wine, my WOTN, was Chase’s pairing with the doughnut. What a lovely way to end a very memorable meal.

We weren’t quite done, of course. There were also assorted mignardises to be had, along with a boxed package of mignardises to take home (for breakfast, of course).

Posted from CellarTracker

Great notes as always Richard.

I love Cyrus and their tasting menu, but I always seem to end choosing by the bottle from the list because the pairings always seem heavily populated with old world selections and I’m in Sonoma on vacation and looking to explore Cali wines. I’m going to have to give it up next trip and go with the pairings. They sound like they were made very thoughtfully.

I agree Chase is a great Somm. I have found myself pouring over the wine list for 20 minutes and he always manages to be at my side ready to offer advice at just the moment I’m ready to talk to him.

For those of you reading who haven’t been to Cyrus, you’ve got to go. I’ve not been to the French Laundry, but having been to Cyrus a few times, I see no reason to go anywhere else.


Great notes Richard-- Looks like you had a fabulous evening.

I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you, but after looking at your photos, I was sitting up at the bar while you and your crew were in the bar area.

The N.V. Equipo Navazos Jerez-Xérès-Sherry La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada Nº 10 is something I’ve recently become hooked on.

Chase is a spectacular somm. His energy and genuine excitement is contagious.

If you ever want to adopt…

I’m here for you.

Thanks for the kind words. How bizarre that you were in the bar at the same time. We’ll have to say hello next time. :wink: And I agree about the No. 10, and Chase. I now have two favorite somms: Chase, and Jeff at Manresa.

You should definitely give the pairings a shot. There were some enlightening treats in there, and the non-Cali items worked, IMO, much better than the Cali ones.

I had just been to French Laundry two weeks before (for the 5th time, but 1st in a few years) and I can tell you, you’re making the right decision. FL seems to be a big, fancy machine on autopilot these days, with nowhere near the creativity of Cyrus, Manresa, Coi and others. They also wouldn’t even give us a clue what the wine pairings would be for an additional $250 a head (but at least they have a good selection of half bottles, so I pulled off a pretty darn good wine pairing myself there for 4 people, for more than $100 less than they wanted for their mystery wine pairings). Cyrus’s excellent pairings are only $130 a head, BTW. I don’t see myself ever returning to FL.

Richard – beautiful report. Cyrus is just a marvelous place that I can never seem to bring myself to pass up when I’m out there. Looking forward to going back next month, even more so after your notes. Thanks very much for them.

On a side note … FL said they would do a wine pairing? Is that new?


As always thanks for the lovely notes and pics… You live well!

Too bad the Leroy was somewhat oxidized, what a shame… I recently had a 04’ Leroy Meursault that was oxidized…


Geez, I was there recently too and had a couple of those dishes, including the doughnut. Great place!


Great post. I agree with you that FL is not a “great” place anymore. How coincidental that Keller is on the cover of this issue of WS!

By the by, if you had to choose, Alinea or Cyrus for your last meal?


You didn’t ask me, but having been to both in the last six months, Alinea wins. Inn at Little Washington would also be in the conversation.

Thanks for the great pictures and notes on Cyrus. I have to get there during my next trip to Sonoma.

That would be my all-time #1.

I think Alinea is the best restaurant in the country these days. Sounds like I need to get to Inn at Little Washington now though.
Okay, so if it was my last meal and I had the stamina to get there, I’d certainly enjoy my last meal being at Alinea. Our dinner, with wine pairings, last year there, was sensational and a delight to all the senses. But if I was too sick to live the State, I’d be happy to have my last meal be at Cyrus.

Thanks to your encouraging report, Richard – although I must say I always like Cyrus – I’m compelling to move up Cyrus on my trip in a couple weeks. Consecutive nights of Manresa, French Laundry, and now Cyrus. Very much looking forward to it!

A little thread revival to report a bit on our visit to Cyrus this past weekend for our 20th Anniversary. We have lots of pictures, too, but I’ll spare folks. Looks like about half the dishes were still on the tasting menu, a few had changed, and my wife went for the 5 course vegetarian menu which was simply amazing and highly recommended for anyone, vegetarian or not. I got the wine pairings and she stole a few sips from me and nursed a glass of champagne and then a syrah herself.

Overall, I would agree with Richard’s assessment that the old world wines were by far the most interesting in the parings. In our case, the '02 sekt was replaced with some '94(!) out of magnum from the same producer, which was really something amazing. The two new world wines, the '07 Littorai SC PN was okay, and would have been right in my wheelhouse on other nights, but seemed uninspired compared to some of the other wines. With the shortribs, we got the '06 Copain Hawks Butte, which was just too young, and a bit disappointing as a choice because my wife had just ordered it by the glass five minutes before. I would have expected them to throw something else out there given that we already had the wine on the table, but by then they had gotten busier and Chase and Kevin were distracted with new, larger parties. They were extremely attentive early on, pouring the first five wines themselves, but the last three were brought by the waitstaff in time with the meal (and presented correctly, of course) so I missed the chance to get their perspectives on the choices. The pear cidre was great with the cheese course, BTW.

The only reservation we could get was 5:30, but given that the meal lasted 3 hours, we didn’t mind at all. In fact, the early start made it possible for us to interact with both somms, the maitre d’ and even a few of the other diners, which became impossible as the place filled up.

Last thing, if you go, be sure to tell them it’s a birthday or anniversary, and see if they bring out the balloon contraption. It’s a really fun Rube Goldberg machine that dusts desserts with chocolate at the table. Our only regret was that the waiter was in such a hurry to present it that we didn’t get a picture of it.

I’m glad you had such a good meal, and wines, at Cyrus, overall, at least. You’re reminding me of my need to get back up there again soon. Looks like I should plan it for a birthday or celebration of some kind, so I can get a look at that thingamajig.
Thanks for the report.

richard - always enjoy you notes and pics - thanks

Cryus is a great restaurant - perhaps a bit under the radar - one of my favorite northern california restaurants.