Sep 292010

Recently Gabriele and I had dinner at a restaurant called Collage, in St. Augustine, Florida. We had wanted to return to a restaurant we had greatly enjoyed last year, but that place had closed. I turned to TripAdvisor, which listed 99 reviews and called Collage the best restaurant in the area. Our experience was fantastic, and we found an excellent Pinot Noir that is destined to be a new favorite.

Collage is a small restaurant off a narrow, one-way street in the tourist-y section of old St. Augustine. You walk in off the street through a charming covered walkway, into a pleasant space with only 15 tables in two rooms.  The ambiance was relaxed and elegant, perhaps assisted by the fact we visited early in the week.

The menu was relatively small but interesting, and the preparations were right on. Tenderloin bruschetta and baked brie got us started, both strong efforts but the tenderloin was the best appetizer we’ve had in a while. Scallops wrapped in prosciutto and New Zealand lamb chops were outstanding. The scallops were cooked perfectly and finished with a light lemon butter sauce, and the chops were extremely flavorful without being gamy.

A very nice Pinot Noir was the perfect complement to the meal. It was a 2007 Foley Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. The wine starts with a fresh bouquet that is very deep for a Pinot, and the wine is a deep garnet in color.

While there is lots of vibrant cherry fruit here, there is also a richness and structure. It is very smooth, with a slight zing on the finish. You can taste the oak this wine was aged in, and that adds another element. It’s a delicious and interesting wine that can be enjoyed with food or on its own. The retail price I see most online is a little over $30.

While deciding on what to order I went back out to the walkway to check out the special board again. I struck up a chat with Edward, originally from England and now living in the States for the past five years. While he admitted to being a bit “tipply” due to celebrating his friend’s birthday, he pronounced his escargot appetizer the best he’d ever had, and Collage the best restaurant he’d been to in this country.

At the time, I took it as a very good omen. Now I know why he felt that way. Next time you’re anywhere near St. Augustine, you should seek this place out. Until then, pick up some of the Foley.

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