I have belonged to a dinner club since 1989, which may sound like a long time, but the club has been in existence for about 125 years. In fact, when the City of Detroit was celebrating their 300’th birthday, we were one of the few organizations in Detroit that were over one-hundred years old and I remember that day vividly because I represented the club at the breakfast, since that year I was the president of the club. The club began with some of the elite business and social figures in Detroit at the time, there was an uncle of a former President of the United States, and many titans of the business and commerce of Detroit, before there were automobiles that gave Detroit a new nickname. The club used to meet and dine at a member’s home, which back then, those gentlemen had staffs and homes that could seat comfortably forty or more members for dinner, then a meeting, and cigars and cognac afterwards. The club survived the Great Depression, and due to necessity of the times, the meetings were held at a residential hotel’s dining room for a couple of decades. Finally, as the members were no longer residing within the confines of the city, it was decided that groups of three would be the benefactor for the evening and then they would enjoy the largesse of other groups of three, until their group came around for rotation again. The groups of three would select a restaurant for the meeting, and basically the only caveat was that the venue must have a private room for the group. This was how the meetings were held when I joined the group, but whereas once the group of three paid for the meal and drinks, they now only pay for the meals, because a small group complained long and clandestinely that non-drinkers were objecting to paying for the sins of the drinkers.
With more and more restaurants eliminating private rooms, the choices have narrowed a bit over the years and hence we tend to meet at some restaurants several times within a given year. We once again found our meeting at Masters Restaurant, a quaint setting that is a copy of the clubhouse at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, and as you can surmise the theme of the interior is strictly golf. This restaurant has even changed hands and the present owners are still doing a nice job for us, as we continue to always use the back room on the main floor. It has even become a tradition that the hosts here even start off with some hot appetizers during the cocktail hour preceding dinner. The entrée choices of the evening were Atlantic Salmon, Hawaiian Chicken and Tenderloin Beef Tips and all were served on beds of rice pilaf, a preceded by a Greek Salad (though I always request an Italian Salad (not really a big deal)). The desert has historically been an ice cream sundae, with only a few exceptions over the years.
I guess that a couple of members have discovered a silver lining to the dark rain cloud that a few members have caused over the now current cash bar status for our dinners. In the old days, I tended to drink cocktails through out the evening, because a lot of the venues used had a very poor selection of wines by the glass. Now two or three members may opt to purchase a bottle of wine and sometimes there is a wine that can be interesting that the restaurant will not sell by the glass. This was the case that evening. One of the other members lamented that there were no quality Pinot Noir wines being offered even by the bottle, and he asked me if there was anything of note. I found one that I thought he would like, I knew it would work well with the Tenderloin Tips that I had ordered, and since he likes Pinot Noir with Salmon I gave it a go. We shared a bottle of Santi Solane Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2013, and he had never had a Valpolicella. Valpolicella has been likened to Beaujolais not for the wine, but for the ups and downs of the popularity and how both areas are striving to return to the good graces of the wine drinking public. Valpolicella has always been one of the most popular red wines of the Veneto, but it was always a middleweight especially to its cousin Amarone. Some of the producers in the Valpolicella Classico district attempted to give the wine more body and nuance by utilizing the same technique that makes Amarone so wonderful, and that is making it Ripasso and at the same time making the wine strong enough to be Superiore. The Ripasso method is to take the grapes and lay them out to dry for three to four months before pressing them to beginning making the wine. These dried grapes have a concentrated flavor that really elevates the finished product and have some salesman and wait staff calling these wines “mini-Amarone.” While there are three grapes that are the core of Valpolicella, this wine is made with seventy percent Corvina and the balance in Rondinella and eschewing the third grape entirely. I will also mention that Santi was established in 1843, so they have been producing wines in the Veneto for some time, in fact they are still using the original winery, but it has been updated and modernized to take advantage of some new techniques that can be done. Santi is now part of Gruppo Italiano Vini and is now considered Italy’s biggest wine maker. I might add that my associate was pleased with the wine, and a third member wanted to get into the action as well. Until the next meeting where there will be some interesting bottles of wine.