My dinner club has tried a few new venues and one of them was Rocky’s of Northville. Rocky goes back to the heady days of the late Chuck Muer restaurants and Chuck Muer had helped Rocky turn Northville Charley’s into Rocky’s of Northville. My Bride and I have been going to Rocky’s probably since he opened in 1993. The restaurant has a back room that is perfect for my club, and it was kind of amusing to watch the other members as they were shocked at how busy the restaurant was on a Wednesday night, even without our group, and I was saying that I had never been to the restaurant when they were quiet, which is quite a testament to the chef. Periodically the restaurant is also home to some “game” nights of exotic meals for the hunters and there is a large Kodiak bear that greets the patrons as they arrive, and the taxidermist did a spectacular job, and it has been there since I can remember, and it may have been there when it was Northville Charley’s, but that was so long ago, I am not sure, and I always forget to ask.
Our meeting that night did not offer any “game” and there was not even an offering of duck, which is one of the specialties of the house, but it was off of the regular spring menu at the moment according to our server. Rocky’s is one of those old-guard establishments that still pride themselves on house made bread rolls that may not be totally photogenic, but they are truly well made and delicious, and this is from a non-bread eater normally. The House Salad for the group was similar to a “Michigan Salad” without the cheese and it was served with a Raspberry Vinaigrette, except for one order with Italian dressing to accommodate one pain in the arse member, and you can all guess who that is. The menu for the evening was a Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Rice Pilaf and Fresh Vegetables, Breast of Chicken Piccata with a Lemon Mushroom Caper Sauce and Rice Pilaf and Fresh Vegetables and a New York Strip Steak with a Red Wine Sauce and Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Vegetables. Coffee and the traditional dessert of a Chocolate Sundae on Vanilla Ice Cream followed, and since I can remember that has been the dessert of choice, because of deference to our old Club Secretary, who had replaced his Father in the same capacity and between the two men, they almost covered perhaps the eighty of the over one-hundred years the club has been in existence.
As I told you, there was a rebellion by the some of the members who are tea-totalers who objected to having to pay for the drink part of the menu when they were hosts and eventually made the bar tab subject to each member. Another member and I and sometimes others will take advantage of this change and order an interesting bottle of wine, which we would never have done, when it was on someone else’s dime and we would have stuck with the more prosaic by the glass offerings. My fellow club member when we were at the previous meeting was concerned that the selection might not be good as he had never been to Rocky’s and I assured him that we would find something to please him, as well as myself. Now my fellow member always chooses a Pinot Noir, because that is his wine of choice, and I being the proverbial pain in the arse always tries to make him stretch with the wine selection, as he lets me choose, even though we split the price of the bottle. He looked at me, like I was mad when I suggested we have a Merlot, and I told him that original growers in Napa Valley thought this winery was mad for wanting to grow Merlot as well, and I got him interested, because I knew the history. As you may have guessed we were having Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley 2014. Duckhorn started in 1976 and their first vintage was in 1978 with eight-hundred cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and an equal amount of Merlot. They have one-thousand acres of Estate property and they also buy additional fruit as well, like the agreement they had with Three Palm Vineyard which eventually became an exclusive property for them. Duckhorn has expanded into other parts of California for their different label collections and have even ventured into Washington State and in 2016 Duckhorn Vineyards along with their five other labels were bought by TSG Consumer Partners, so it will be interesting to see if they maintain the quality that so many expect. This particular vintage was blended with some Cabernet Sauvignon and the fruit is a mix of estate and contract purchases within the valley. The wine was aged for fifteen months in a mix of new and used French Oak barrels. It was pure pleasure to watch my fellow club member as he tasted and put his arms around this wine. For their opening wine of this collection, they really deliver a product that has dark fruit and cherries with balance tannins and a great aftertaste. I am sure that my friend will look at Merlot in a different light from now on.