The Five ( Six ) S’s of Wine Tasting: SEE. SWIRL. SMELL. SIP. SAVOR. AND...SETAI.

Not many things can top the Zen-like ambiance offered at The Setai Hotel That is, until you’re greeted with a glass of the playfully effervescent and universally beloved, Yellow Label Veuve Clicquot. On May 29, 2014, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin hosted a wine dinner at the Setai, the second of such wine series dinners hosted at this chic Miami Beach hotel.  Each month a different winery teams up with The Restaurant to put on this inventive wine dinner.

Don’t worry my friends, this was not another one of those “all too familiar” overpriced wine dinners with uninspired dishes off the menu.  The wine dinner series assembled by The Restaurant at The Setai in conjunction with the talents of Executive Chef Mathias Gervais and Chef Sommelier Dwayne Savoie is much more.  Preparations begin at least a week prior to the dinner, when the two chefs sit down to taste the featured wines and collaborate on the menu.  Chef Gervais strives to stay hyper-local and seasonal in creating the menu, while not taking away from the wines of each course. “It is important to have something that highlights the wine and staying local to obtain that.” says Gervais. 

Dinner begins with hand-passed hors d’oeuvres around the beautiful Asian-inspired patio and then diners make their way into the restaurant for the multi-course meal.  On this occasion, Chef Gervais expertly paired each course with different champagnes from Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin’s eponymous Champagne House. 

Being a fan of all things bubbly, I found it difficult to control my excitement with the evenings sparkling lineup.  The overture to the meal, an open faced lobster ravioli with fresh local grapefruit topped with compressed watermelon with cilantro and basil, sang beautifully.  In between the bites of the clean sea and bright citrus flavors, Chef Gervais added white balsamic spheres, the perfect note of acidity. Poured alongside the ravioli was the Gold Label Brut 2004 vintage.  The spicy notes of the wine and structure on the long finish paired wonderfully with the bright, crisp dish.

While I sipped on the next wine, the 2004 vintage Rosé, I learned some fascinating history about the celebrated Champagne House.  Being the widow of the founder of the Champagne House, Barbe-Nicole decided to change the name of the House to “Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin,” which translates to the “widow” Clicquot Ponsardin.  Madame Clicquot is also credited with developing the riddling process.  Not only that, Madame Clicquot had the audacity to ship her wines through the Russian blockade in 1811 in order to establish her wine house in the royal courts. ( 1 ) A true businesswoman.

The La Grande Dame 2004 undoubtedly stole the show.  Giving praise to the Madame herself, La Grande Dame is blended with eight of the Champagne House’s Grand Crus (2).  Poured into a wine glass instead of the traditional flute, the drinker better experienced the complex floral fragrance, both sweet and crisp. The wine showed a remarkable balance with a bright first sip on the palate as it slowly developed into complex flavors with hints of toasted coconut.  The wine was a beautiful expression of champagne, a lovely nod to Madam Clicquot, and a superb pairing to Chef Gervais’ rich veal dish.

We concluded the evening with a flurry of desserts paired with a demi-sec champagne.  The demi-sec style of champagne is a wine that contains a higher residual sugar level.  Veuve’s has 46 g/L.  Savoie served the wine from a decanter, an untraditional way to serve champagne.  Savoie explained his reasoning for decanting the demi-sec, “by decanting this wine, because it is a wine, it will open up and reveal its full depth and range of flavors.”  After taking a sip (then gulp), I understood why Savoie chose to decant the sweeter-style champagne.  The decant allowed the bubbles to be exposed to more oxygen, enhancing the sweet, almost praline quality.  A wonderful end to an exceptional dinner.

The wine series is scheduled through the end of the year, traditionally the last Thursday of the month.  The next dinner on June 26 at 7:30pm is dedicated to the celebrated Bodegas Muga winery from Spain’s praised Rioja region.  At $115 per person (inclusive of tax and tip) the dinner is a great way to see, smell, swirl, sip, and savor The Setai. Reservations can be made by calling The Setai or by email at

Until next time.

Drink well, in good company.


The Restaurant at The Setai

2001 Collins Ave. Miami Beach

305 520 6000

[1] In addition, Madame Clicquot supplied soldiers with champagne during the Napoleonic Wars.  Having nothing but their sword to open the bottles, these soldiers supposedly birthed what is colloquially known as the ever popular “saber” technique.

[2] The best cuvées the House has to offer.