Cinco Wine Dinner Featuring Muga Wines

Many visitors to Nantucket Island focus their attentions on the downtown cobblestone region, visiting the restaurants, shops and museums in that small area. The locals know that often the best restaurants are found far off the beaten path. Cinco is about 2 miles from town, and just over a mile from the airport. Executive chef Jason Carroll has developed such a following that people fly in from the mainland just to have a dinner here, then fly home.

The Spanish-themed restaurant features smooth wood plank floors, burgundy walls, and a selection of fantastic, bold artwork hanging on the wall. My favorite was a bright fish painting done by a Ukrainian artist. There were candles in every corner of the 2 main rooms, and each room was divided into 2 smaller dining areas. A cozy bar completed the public areas. Latin music played softly in the background.

The pre-dinner reception featured a pistachio breaded rabbit loin - little meatballs with the salty nut coating forming a truffle of sorts around the inner meat. This was paired with the Txomin Etxaniz Txakolina - pronounced "chomin echanith chakolina". John Miller, the Director of Training from Boston Wines, explained that this was "one of the rarest wines in the world". The Txomin is the only wine from this appellation in northern Spain that is exported. The wine, if you can find it, sells for about $25/bottle. In its native land it is drunk quite young from pint glasses. As John explained, "there's really not a lot to do in San Sebastian".

Interestingly, the wine appeared white but is made from 25% red grapes, just like many Champagnes. The flavor was light and gentle, with a nice balance of sweet and tart. There were flavors of not quite ripe orange or tangerine, with sage hints as well.

The next course was a baby zucchini salad. The greens included tiny slivers of zucchini, golden delicious apple and walnuts with a citrus vinaigrette. The crispy texture was very nice, and the sweetness of the salad was offset by the tartness of the dressing. The wine, a Muga Rioja Blanco 2004, was a good match for the salad. The aroma was oaky, but in comparison the flavor was fresh, dry and herbal. The wine goes for $15 and is aged only briefly in oak. John explained, "Muga has their own cooperage - that means they make their own barrels. This is very unusual. They use American oak, French, Slovakian ..." The attention to detail was apparent in the nice balance of the resulting wine.

We moved on to seared diver scallops, with sliced strawberry, yellow pepper puree and shaved summer truffle. The presentation was gorgeous, as with every dish in this meal. The scallops were paired with a Muga rose 2003. For those who feel that salmon-colored wines must all taste like White Zinfandel, think again. This was a dry wine, made by blending red and white grapes. John explained that by doing this, "you get less tannins with more flavors. The resulting wine pairs extremely well with food. They drink a lot of this in the Mediterranean. It'll go with almost any cuisine." We did find the combination of the tender scallops, the fruity strawberry and the gentle wine to go very well together.

The main course was easily the most interesting of the evening. The two wines to be compared were the Muga Reserva Rioja 2000 ($30), and the Muga Reserva "Seleccio n Especial" 1998 ($45). Chef Jason decided to do something quite complex - to serve a cold dish and a hot dish on the same plate. This made the timing quite a challenge! The cold dish was a beef tartare with quail egg, lemon, capers, anchovy, Dijon, parsley and sea salt. The hot dish was grilled beef shoulder with morel mushroom ragout, roasted root vegetables and veal reduction. We were warned not to wait for the full table to be served when we got our plate, but to eat immediately so that the temperature and flavors would be just right.

The tartare was very fresh tasting, with the crisp meat flavors coming through strong, the tang of the capers providing a nice balance. The grilled beef, on the other hand, was warm and soft, with creamy flavors.

Fresh Spieglau glassware was brought out for the 2 red wines. The 2000 Rioja was a little stinky, with bright tannins and an earthy, red pepper flavor. The 1999 Especial was more fruity, with medium tannins and rich spicy flavors. Both went well with both meat dishes.

Finally it was time for dessert. This was a peach tart with creme anglaise, pairing with an El Grifo 2002. This rare wine hails from the Canary Islands and sells for $20 for a 500ml bottle. The tart was like an eggy cream with a light, tasty flavor. The wine was a perfect pairing. It was very light yellow with a smooth, light, sweet peach flavor. Interestingly, the grapes used for this wine are grown in dark craters, with the vine in a mushroom-like form. This lets the sun reflect onto all sides of the vines, giving it a full ripening.

It was easy to see why people would make the trip to Nantucket Island to seek out this restaurant. Even while we were having the wine dinner, numerous locals came in to have dinner in the bar. If you head out to Nantucket for a visit, be sure to do as the locals do - hop a cab or take a walk, and experience the flavors and artwork found at Cinco!

Photo Album from Cinco Dinner
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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.