Beer & Wine

Ever Wondered What a Fancy Wine Pairing Dinner Is Really Like?

It's a cold and windy South Florida evening. The temperature reads 58 degrees Fahrenheit. I make my way toward the restaurant at the Waterstone Resort in Boca Raton, off East Camino Real and the Intracoastal. I'm here for a wine-paired dinner with the vintners of Cakebread Cellars and the food of Boca Landing, the onsite restaurant.

For this dinner, the Napa Valley vintner boasts the inclusion of its 99-point Robert Parker-rated wine, The Dancing Bear, a 2012 vintage that is now so highly sought-after that it is nearly impossible to find in retail. Yet, here in Boca Raton, it finds itself as the showcase for a five-course meal prepared by chef Matt Mixon. 

So what is it like to see a world-class-rated wine in action, accompanied by all of the accoutrements that a wine-paired dinner can bring?

It's a master class in experiencing the full spectrum of taste and enjoyment.

The evening beings with a couple of lengthy introductions to the venue and the winery, with the representative of the winery producing an intriguing origin story for the brand. Personally, I find it fascinating, but I feel it is lost upon the majority of people who are simply waiting for their first course to arrive. 

At one point, people at one table interrupt to make it known that they haven't been poured yet, but before they can finish, servers are already on their way. I find that the staff here is quite on-point, constantly at the ready to offer top-offs and the like with no hint of hesitation. 

As the evening progresses — and I won't bore you with the minutiae of individual dish-tasting notes (save for one or two coming up) — the crowd here begins to build a level of anticipation toward the crown of the evening: this highly rated and coveted Cabernet Sauvignon that is supposed to knock our socks off, at least with the buildup. 

The three courses before Dancing Bear was introduced were phenomenal; I have to give credit to Mixon for the salmon tart, sea scallops, and duck breast that all so elegantly featured themselves against the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir of Cakebread respectively. This man knows what he is doing.

Finally, as the wine makes its way to the table, paired with an amazingly crafted braised short rib and polenta dish, the focus turns to this highly rated piece of American craftsmanship. 

How close to perfection is it?

Compared to the other offerings this evening, it's exponentially more balanced and rounded. From a technical standpoint, I can see how this wine could achieve such marks. The winery has crafted something of note here, but at $250 a bottle (the price at which a limited number of bottles was being sold), it's a buy that perhaps only dedicated wine collectors would be apt to complete. In all honesty, it was a glass of wine that fell into the camp of being great but not phenomenal. It's a technical marvel that worked well with an expertly prepared slice of beef.

Are dinners like this worth the expense? you might ask. In this case, the food of the Waterstone Resort would be enough to get your money's worth. The wine is an intoxicating extra. But when the focus is on the wine, it's an even better experience that brings everyone in attendance together for at least a few hours of revelry. After all, if we wanted to just drink good wine by ourselves, we'd just go to the liquor store. And that's what tomorrow entails.

Waterstone Resort and Marina is located at 999 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton. Call 561-368-9500, or visit

Cakebread wines are available at local retailers. Visit

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Doug Fairall
Contact: Doug Fairall