When Chuck and Linda Keagle took over the famous historical Rancho Cucamonga Sycamore Inn in 2002 located on Foothill Boulevard, a new era of hospitality began. The inn was refurbished and re-landscaped and the building was updated.
It sits on fabled Route 66, the primary route from points east to the Pacific Ocean. In the mid twentieth century through the 60s, before freeways, the Inn hosted the rich and famous and infamous en route to Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Legend has it that Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Short (the ‘black Dahlia’) dined at the Sycamore in the weeks before their untimely deaths.
Welcoming new traditions, the Keagles instituted periodic five course Wine Dinners. This last July 30, I attended one conducted by Master Sommelier Michael Jordan, son of the famous Westwood restaurateur ‘Matte’ Matteo Jordan, from Hoboken, New Jersey.
Only professionals have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America (with 230 Master Sommeliers worldwide) and one of them is Jordan.
According to Gino L. Filippi in his L.A. Times Foothill Reader column, July 19, 2015, “Michael Jordan is Director of Global Key Accounts for Jackson Family fine Wines, and holds a Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as a Certified Wine Educator diploma from the society of Wine Educators. He is one of 13 people in the world to hold both these diplomas and has taught comprehensive wine and beverage courses to thousands of students.”
A Master Sommelier pass rate for the theory Exam is approximately 10 percent with only 25-30 percent eligible to apply. Besides knowing how to set the table and serve the wine, he shows an ability to answer questions and complaints with skill, elegance and diplomacy. He must know the wine areas of the world and their products, as well as the principal grape varieties used in winemaking and where they are cultivated, all by a sniff and taste of the wine.
What made a five-course dinner run by a Master Sommelier different than other dinners one might have attended was that Michael Jordan introduced each course with a talk about the wine with what its aroma notes were, locale of the winery and kind of grape with which he had paired that course. Then, he came round to your table of six and talked to everyone personally and poured your glass.
The first course was Saint-Andre brie stuffed phyllo paired with Matanzas Creek Winery, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Bennett Valley.
The second course was heirloom tomato salad with a balsamic cabernet vinaigrette, roasted onions, bleu cheese and opal basil paired with a champ De Reves, 2012 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
The third course was crab crusted Fijian swordfish, lemon beurre blanc, roasted garlic Yukon gold mashed potatoes, paired with Stonestreet Winery, 2011 Chardonnay, Bear Point Vineyard.
By the fourth course of charbroiled filet mignon, gorgonzola sauce, fried parmesan polenta with fine herbs, baby carrots paired with La Jota, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, I started to feel the wines.
By the fifth course of banana upside down cake, house-made butterscotch sauce, paired with Galleano Winery, Mary Margaret Sherry, Cucamonga Valley, Don Galleano, local vintner and International wine judge joined Jordan to present Best of Class and multi-gold-medal winning Mary Margaret Sherry, by the historic Galleano Winery.
Even though a Master Sommelier also must know about cigar production especially Havanas, I was not in the mood after eating such wonderful food and drinking five different wines. Luckily, cigars were not on the menu.
“My father was friends with Frank and Sammy Davis Jr.,” said Jordan.
Michael’s father, former owner of “Matte” Jordan’s Westwood Matteo’s Restaurant used to host Frank Sinatra and his gang. Frank always arranged for Matte to take a bit part in any movie that he made, compliments of Sinatra. While Matteo’s is under new ownership now, the tradition of fine Italian food continues.
Jordan hosts a weekly radio show, “What’s Cookin’ with Wine.” On CRN Digital Talk Radio and many AM radio markets across the country. Recently he served as honorary chairman at the 2015 Los Angeles International Wine Competition at Fairplex Pomona.
He grew up at the restaurant. Now, as Master Sommelier, he helps patrons grow up into the world of fine wines, knowing their individual attributes and what is best to pair them with at a meal.
I was glad I had my NASA man, my designated driver, to take me home.
Click on photo to see slide show and captions.
Gino L. Filippi is a fourth-generation Cucamonga Valley vintner. He can be reached at Ginoffvine@aol.com
http://www.galleanowinery.com | http://www.thesycamoreinn.com