The night started as any advantageous eating affair ought to: canapés topped with heaps of caviar, substantial sips of Champagne, and an informal meander by gardens whose meticulously manicured herbs, flowers, and fruits would quickly discover their approach to our plates. Then got here an explore-as-much-as-you-want tour of the million-dollar-plus wine cave earlier than settling into our fully personal, completely hidden room to get pleasure from 5 programs immediately designed to pair with 5 wines chosen only for us.
Welcome to the San Ysidro Ranch’s Secret Cellar, which was formally unveiled earlier this 12 months to make the Montecito resort’s legendarily luxe vibe a bit extra-exclusive. “It’s an expertise that doesn’t actually exist in Montecito or Santa Barbara for essentially the most half, particularly at this stage,” defined the property’s sommelier Tristan Pitre, who hosted our media group for dinner. “Individuals come to the Ranch for thus many various causes, but when wine is one cause, now you will have a eating expertise the place you’ll be immersed in that.”
Chef Matthew Johnson’s meals earns equal prime billing. “He creates dishes which can be unique to the Secret Cellar,” mentioned Pitre. “They’re all dishes that you wouldn’t see on the Stonehouse menu.”
Our meal started with citrus-cured steelhead, its fantastically agency cubes awash in roe, turnips, flowers, radishes, and Meyer lemon, paired with a 2016 German riesling from the Pfalz by Von Profitable. Subsequent was the spiny lobster, accompanied by braised artichoke, gnocchi, and asparagus in a bouillabaisse sauce, served with Sadie Household’s 2018 “Palladius” white mix from South Africa’s Swartland, essentially the most eye-opening wine of the night.
A Jerusalem artichoke velouté with black truffle, hazelnut French dressing, parmesan emulsion, and crisp sunchokes adopted, as a 2008 Premier Cru Volnay by Domaine Douhairet Porcheret introduced Burgundy into the image. Pitre opted for a large-format bottling on that one and opened it earlier within the day to let it breathe, the kind of attention-to-detail service that the Secret Cellar consumer calls for.
Every of the dishes was portioned completely, sufficient to eat that you just bought the complete flavors and reached satisfaction, but not a lot that you just felt heavy. That was even true for the Japanese Kobe A5 strip loin, which floated in on a dashi consommé with mustard seeds, king oyster mushrooms, and Napa cabbage. Jonata’s 2005 “El Desafio” integrated the Santa Ynez Valley’s best in the precise manner, offering heft to match the fragile whereas wealthy beef bites.
For dessert, the lavender crème brûlée with Meyer lemon foam, almond crisp, and berries by pastry chef Michelle Straub was scrumptious. However my eyes have been extra opened but once more by Pitre’s selection of the Braida Brachetto d’Acqui from 2021, a really low-alcohol, calmly spritz pink wine that drank like a refreshing grownup soda pop.
I puzzled how a lot prospects need to information the wine decisions. “Some individuals prefer to be closely concerned,” mentioned Pitre, who began working at San Ysidro Ranch about three years in the past, quickly after the wine cellar was rebuilt within the wake of the January 2018 particles circulate. “However most of the time, individuals don’t need to make the selections.” On condition that he is aware of the cellar higher than anybody, I’d extremely recommend letting Pitre take the reins.
A Minnesota native who got here to Santa Barbara eight years in the past to work on the now-closed Les Marchands earlier than returning to Minneapolis to, amongst different issues, open famend Chef Gavin Kaysen’s restaurant Demi, Pitre sees this expertise as very similar to a chef’s-counter tasting-menu format. “It’s a bit extra of a managed, multi-course, fine-dining expertise the place meals and wine pairing are the point of interest,” mentioned Pitre, who additionally manages the wine expertise on the Ranch’s Stonehouse and Plow & Angel eating places. “We promote a whole lot of nice meals and actually nice wine in the principle eating room, nevertheless it’s an à la carte expertise, so there’s rather less area for pairing.”
As you might guess, it’s not a cut price evening out. In case you can rally half a dozen mates — and as much as a dozen — the minimal invoice needs to be about $500 per individual, although the value can escalate shortly relying on varied elements. (You would theoretically eat alone or as a pair, although that minimal value will possible rise.) Even with all of the exclusivity, that’s not far out of line with what many top-tier eating places cost for his or her most exalted meals. Simply throughout the freeway at Caruso’s, for instance, the full-monty chef’s menu plus elite wine pairing is $620. And that doesn’t embrace a Secret Cellar peek at a long time of Petrus — together with the 1945, which prices $39,000 — which snuggle up in opposition to vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Sine Qua Non.
Since opening this previous spring, the Secret Cellar has been steadily serving a minimum of a dinner per week. And although rather a lot goes into every menu, it doesn’t must be booked far prematurely. “If the room just isn’t occupied and also you wished to come back in on that evening and have dinner down there, we might accommodate that,” mentioned Pitre. “Being a small property helps hold issues actually versatile for us.”
He’s proud to lastly provide this expertise, which was conceived of when the cellar was rebuilt however took years to carry to fruition. “It’s way more intimate than every other splurge expertise you’re gonna have,” mentioned Pitre of the eye and privateness the Secret Cellar gives. “I simply don’t suppose you get that wherever else.”
900 San Ysidro Ln., Montecito; (800) 368-6788; sanysidroranch.com