The Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 State Route 108
Columbia, Maryland 21044
I first reviewed this restaurant and wine bar on December 30, 2005, and I must have been back at least ten times since then. As you can probably guess, I really love this place, but I thought it would be helpful to include a review of one of the best meals of my life that Mrs. Moyey and I had last Tuesday (March 28, 2006). When restaurants are new, they often start by producing great stuff, but the quality falls off with time. In the case of the Iron Bridge, nothing could be further from the truth!
There are probably about ten meals I have had in my life that I will never forget. And this was one of them! A "meal of a life time" requires quite a lot of words, and I recognize that many people visiting this site are looking for a quick "shall I, shan't I" answer, so I will begin with the bottom line -- this restaurant just gets better and better. Chef Marc Dixon. Marc cooks fresh ingredients in an original unfussy way. With the policy of pricing wine at just $5.00 above retail, wine lovers can enjoy superb wine at reasonable prices served by people who know what they are talking about. And they serve wine in good glasses. What more could you want? (Other unforgettable meals include Le Gavroche in London, Les Amis in Singapore, Charleston's in Baltimore, and Vidalia in Washington, DC.)
Readers from Washington or Baltimore may see little point in traveling outside the city for a good meal, but this restaurant is so exceptional that I believe you will agree that it is well worth the ride. You will not be disappointed, but I would time your visit carefully because the Iron Bridge is no longer the area's best kept secret.
The occasion of this review was a Rhône Valley Dinner. The cost of the dinner was $75.00, and that included three courses, a sparkling wine to start, and a dessert course, tax, and gratuity. The Iron Bridge has wine tastings regularly on Tuesdays, and you can expect world-class cookings, top class well chosen wine, and an interesting and informative presentation of each wine,
The prices next to the wines are the retail prices at Iron Bridge.
The meal started with a Jaillance Clairette de Die Sparkling Wine ($16.00) from the Drôme Valley. (Go to this site particularly if you know a little French, and you are interested in seeing beautiful multimedia presentations. Make a point of seeing " The Legend of Clairette de Die.) Anyway, this wine is a blend of white Muscat (90%) and Clairette (10%). The wine is a delicious, light floral wine, but get it only if you if you positively enjoy sweeter sparkling wines -- this is nothing like a Brut champagne, and it should not be compared.
The first course was Seared Rare Tuna, Coriander Crusted, Served over a Cracked Pepper Oven, Dried Tomato and Cucumber Salad. This was accompanied by Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, Blanc, 2004 ($30.00) and also an Ancien Domaine de Pontifes, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc 2005 ($40.00). I love good sushi-grade tuna particularly when it is served almost raw. The blend of pepper and ground coriander complemented the wonderfully tender tuna meat perfectly. The tomatoes were deeply red and tasted better than most tomatoes that are found around here at this time of year. All through the meal, I was wondering where they buy their ingredients. (I wondered with a little garnish of fresh cilantro would have been a good addition to this dish from a culinary and visual perspective.
The Crozes-Hermitage is an attractive and refreshing wine that is fermented entirely in stainless steel. It is a blend of Marsanne (80%) and Roussanne (20%). The lemon taste is nicely balanced with a complex caramel flavor. (Recommended).
It was nice to drink a white Chateauneuf du Pape, which contrasted sharply from the Crozes-Herimitage largely because of the presence of an attractive, smoky wood flavor and the fact that this wine is dominated by Grenache Blanc. There was just the hint of a little sparkle on the tip of the tongue that I find interesting and attractive in white wines.
The next course was Braised Veal Cheeks with Smoked Bacon Lardons, Melted Leeks over a Quick Egg White Soufflé. The smell of this dish filled us with anticipation. "Caramelized onions," said Iran, but that smell turned out to be the well caramelized "melted" leaks. The veal was so tender that it almost melted in the mouth. The thing I love about the cooking at Iron Bridge is that the food is so well integrated -- several ingredients form a single dish; yet each ingredient can be tasted seperately. The accompanying wines were a Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas "Les Ruchets", 2003 ($75.00), and an E. Guigal "Brune et Blonde," Côte Rotie, 2001 ($65.00)
"Les Ruchets," is made from wine purchased from a single vineyard, and it was especially successful in 2001. Colombo believes in near organic methods, and the wine exhibits the signature Syrah taste with interesting spicy complexity. (Very highly recommended)
The Côte Rotie, is made of Syrah and a little Viognier (5%) spends 30 to 36 months in a mixture of new oak (40%) and one-year old oak (60%). It has the distinct cherry flavor that you usually associate with Syrah (particularly Australian Shiraz), but with an unusual complexity.There is the added smoky flavor, the tannins and vanilla from the oak, and also the floral flavors that are reminiscent of Provence. (Very highly recommended).
The next course was Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Mixed Mushroom and New Potato Hash, Haricot Vert. While the theme of the veal course was to use Syrah-based wines, three Grenache-based wines were presented with the pork: Domaine la Bouissiere "Bel Air" Vacqueyras, 2003; Chateau Fortia, Chateauneuf du Pape, 2003 ($34.00); and Domaine de la Maurelle, Gigondas, 2004 ($21.00).
Again, the Grilled Pork was a perfect choice. The signature of the Iron Bridge cooking rests in their ability to integrate dishes. Apple is always a lovely complement to pork, and the addition of sage worked terrifically with the group of Grenache-based wines.
The Domaine la Bouissiere "Bel Air" Vacqueyras, 2003 is grown at high altitude. Neither fined nor filtered, Bel Air is a blend of Syrah (80%) and Grenache (20%). Half the wine is barrel-aged and the rest is in aged in tanks to achieve a wonderful balance of fresh fruit and intensity with obvious potential for improvement with age. (Highly recommended)
Chateau Fortia, Chateauneuf du Pape, 2003 is another wine in which Jean-Luc Colombo's methods are used. Although it was not the most expensive wine of the evening, I particularly enjoyed it. The balance of fruit, herbs, and peppery spices are wonderful in this wine. Marvelous!
Domaine de la Maurelle, Gigondas, 2004 was another intense and rich wine. My notes documented intensity of fruit, but, to be honest, I cannot remember this wine very clearly. I am certain that this reflected the quantity of the other wines rather than the quality of this one!
The final course was Raspberry and Lemon Basil Granite Garnished with Fresh Berries accompanied by Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise ($33.00).
The dessert was a terrific idea. A refreshing, slushy, delicate mix of berries made interesting with basil and also some mint.
The Domaine de Durban is generally considered one of the best of the Beaumes de Venise wines. Made of Muscat à Petits Grains, this very delicate and fragrant wine is usually drunk in France primarily as an aperitif although it is enjoyed elsewhere as a dessert wine. Beaumes de Venise usually has an alcohol level (15%) that is higher than most sweet wines because fermentation is arrested through the addition of alcohol. Although this wine is undoubtedly very fine, when I drink it, I cannot help running comparisons in my head to other sweet wines (Bonnezeaux, for example) that I prefer. I need to open my mind on this wine!
Towards the end of our meal, Iran and I decided that neither of us should be seen behind the wheel of a car, and we ordered a cab from Columbia Cab (301 604 5800). They showed up about half an hour after we called them. Their service is just about acceptable, but I would not go out of my way to recommend them unless you particularly enjoy listening to a driver talking loudly on his mobile phone while you are trying to muse on the wonders of the treasures of Rhône Valley. If you do a wine tasting at the Iron Bridge, I would seriously consider making arrangements to get home safely.