As I’ve grown into my late twenties and my extended family has moved in different directions, my parents and I have made a new tradition for the holidays. Well, if two years can count as a tradition, then our tradition is visiting Napa and Sonoma to celebrate Christmas together. Let’s face it, we’re winos. Ever since my parents moved to Paso Robles five years ago, our love for wine and palate for good wines has grown. So we jump on any chance we get to bond over experiencing new wines!
In keeping with our new tradition, we went wine tasting on Christmas Eve at Landmark Vineyards and Kunde in Sonoma followed by a spectacular homemade dinner. The Christmas Eve special included my creamy mushroom risotto, and dad’s perfectly grilled lobster tails with garlic butter, paired with a lovely Landmark Damaris Reserve 2015 Chardonnay. Now that was a good meal!
Though I pride myself on being a good cook and can definitely state that our Christmas Eve meal was beyond delicious, the following night Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Resort prepared a Christmas dinner for us that was unforgettable.
Siena Restaurant is an Italian-California restaurant with decor that transported me back to memorable meals out while studying abroad in Florence. The evening was made all the more special by Siena’s beautiful open kitchen which allows guests to see all the behind the scenes magic. The Meritage Resort itself is expansive and definitely gives off the Tuscan vibe with warm, yellow plaster walls and wooden beams lining the ceilings. We even learned the resort is expanding! Slated in the not so distant future are additional rooms, shops, and a wine tasting village! Plus the resort is ideally situated where Highway 221 to Napa and Highway 12 to Sonoma split. Prime location to have easy access to wine tasting in both regions. I will definitely be checking out the wine village when it’s opened and on the hunt for affordable rooms for a weekend getaway.
But back to dinner! Siena Restaurant had a lovely Christmas menu (insert picture) with plenty of options to choose from which in my experience is rare for a holiday menu. We had a hard time choosing what to eat because everything sounded so delicious.
For wine, my dad generously selected a bottle of Artemis 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Holy $H!T!! It’s safe to say this was the best Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had in my life.
Extremely smooth, so refined, and surprisingly well-balanced. I picked up notes of leather, dark cherry, blueberry, and blackberry. This wine had a delightful long, lingering finish with seemingly no tannin. As the wine opened up, new notes of black pepper and even a bit of red pepper began showing up. A truly beautiful wine that paired well with our dinner selections.
For the first course, I opted for the chestnut bisque with black truffle and marscapone because I am newly a huge fan of chestnuts and I can’t resist a dish with black truffles.
Eating this bisque was like floating to heaven on a pillowy cloud of deliciousness. The richness and depth of flavor from the truffle and marscapone was perfectly complemented by the smooth, full-bodied wine. Dad, who wisely ordered the same, called the chestnut bisque “a bowl of wonderful.” I savored every last drop. We both scraped our bowls clean.
My mom ordered the organic baby lettuce salad with marcona almonds, sun dried strawberries, and yuzu vinaigrette. The lettuce itself was so fresh and flavorful, then completely elevated by the other ingredients. The sun dried strawberries were a revelation and I was inspired to make a New Year’s resolution to experiment with Yuzu this year.
For the main course, Dad ordered a superbly slow roasted Niman prime rib of beef with nutmeg whipped potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, baby vegetables, au jus, and horseradish crema. I didn’t snag a taste, but his plate was clean by the end of the meal so that speaks volumes. Mom ordered a house made tagliatelle with braised short rib which took me right back to trattoria dinners when I studied abroad in Italy. Muolto buono!
I opted for the braised short rib with sauce verse, smashed heirloom potatoes, charred onion, and a whole grain mustard jus.
The short rib had a gorgeous crust, a rich flavor from the whole grain mustard jus, and was so incredibly tender it pulled part with just a fork. The sauce vert really made the dish sing. With a bold brightness it wakes up the palate and gives the dish a kick.
I wish I could get my hands on the recipe for Siena’s sauce vert! Needless to say, I will be experimenting with my own version and will most definitely share the recipe here. There was also a surprising garnish of julienned green apples whose tartness was the perfect complement to the richness of the dish as a whole. The depth of the Artemis Cab from Stag’s Leap was meant for dishes with layered, complex flavors like this braised short rib.
Of course we rounded out the meal with dessert. My parents went for Siena’s take on the yule log with white chocolate and raspberry buttercream.
I chose the chocolate orange crème brule with holiday crunch because I have a soft spot for crème brule of any kind. The hints of orange and chocolate crème layer really elevated this dessert.
In addition to their mouthwatering menu, Siena offers world class service and creates an inviting space for an unforgettable dining experience. Our Christmas Dinner at Siena Restaurant was a meal I will cherish forever.