The City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill was a popular venue in downtown Birmingham, which if you are not from the Detroit area is a very upscale suburb and a very tough place to open a restaurant and survive. There almost seems to be a revolving door for restaurants and even those with the best intentions have a high mortality rate. I remember going there once with my Bride and another couple and it was at its peak of popularity. The food was good and they had the Blue Martini club in the basement, that we did not venture into that evening.
The menu was slanted towards Mediterranean which was in vogue at the time. My Bride and I started off by sharing an appetizer of Escargot with garlic, always a safe way to find out how the rest of the dinner will be; and they were fine. My Bride had the Chilean Sea Bass which came with vegetables and beans and a red wine sauce. I had the braised lamb shanks with potatoes and fried parsnips, which I thought was unique, because normally the root vegetables are cooked with the meat.
One of the reasons that I wanted to go there was that they carried fifty some wines by the glass and an assortment of three hundred bottles of wine to choose from. After doing the math for four, it was easier and more economical to order a couple of bottles of wine for dinner and they had some excellent offerings. We actually had some wines from wineries that we had visited out in California and that was a nice way to remember some great trips. The first wine that we had was Talbott Diamond T Estate Chardonnay 2001 from the Monterey area. Robert Talbott Vineyards was a winery I had first heard of, because I was in the men’s wear business and Talbott Neckwear was one of my leading resources; the winery was started by the son of Robert and Audrey Talbott. The Diamond T Estate was planted by Robb in 1982 using Corton-Charlemagne clones and planted in very rough terrain, to the point where small sledge hammers were used to break up the larger rocks. It is a wonderful California take on a classic White Burgundy legend. The second bottle of wine that we had was Duckhorn Merlot 2000 from Napa Valley. Don and Margaret Duckhorn were sort of pioneers in Napa Valley when it comes to Merlot wines. While most wineries were growing Merlot, they did it for blending purposes and not for a single varietal to be bottled. There first vintage was in 1978, and I remember that I had an introduction to the winery from one of my customers that was a silent investor and one of the sons of the Duckhorn family gave us a private tour during harvest and we ended up with a private tasting in the back of a truck trailer sitting on cases of wines that we were opening up. One of my great wine memories, but alas the Duckhorn family sold to TSG Products in 2016, but so far, as I understand the current management is maintaining the quality. I guess that I have been of fan of Merlot from my earliest days trying St. Emilion and Pomerol wines. Wine always creates great memories.