What American Restaurant has a wine list with over seven thousand labels and more than a half million bottles? Give up? Why itís Bernís Steakhouse of Tampa! Tammy and I decided to celebrate our last evening in the Tampa Bay area by dinning at Bernís. On the plus side, Bernís has the food, service, and of course the wine cellar to make believers out of anyone. Just the cellar tour alone is well worth the price of dinner. Throw in a couple of knowledgeable and helpful sommelierís and you have what it takes to make one memorable dinning experience! On the minus side, the dinning rooms were cool and a bit musty. Add to that a wall to wall red carpet that was noticeably faded and worn. Sorry folks, once a restaurant critic, always... Well, you know. Anyway, we were both anticipating a great food and wine experience and we were not disappointed! To my notes:

We started with a delicious French Onion Soup that was followed by a entree of medium rare Chateaubriand. Sautéed mushrooms and onion rings accompanied this dish. The aged beef was literally cooked to perfection with a texture and flavor that was, well, to die for! On the wine side, I had my eye on the Ď43 Leoville Barton and the Ď53 Pape Clement but ultimately settled for a bottle of 1950 Haut Brion. Given the hundreds of thousands of bottles to choose from, it was indeed a tough call.

Our wine was brought tableside where our Sommelier presented it to me for inspection. I first observed the neck fill. It showed an impressive medium/ low neck. With a nod from me, the Sommelier cut the foil and inserted the corkscrew. He then proceeded to extract the cork from the bottle. After I inspected the cork our Sommelier began to decant our wine tableside with the help of a candle and decanter. This Haut Brion did not throw any undo amount of sediment. I was then given a small amount of wine to sample. A couple of swirls and whiffs and...AAAH, perfection! I grinned and nodded again as he began to pour the wine into both glasses. The color was a medium to dark ruby with a brick rim. The bouquet was classic Haut Brion! Minerals, tobacco and a dark fruit scented nose explode from the glass. In the mouth, the wine tastes remarkably fruity, fresh and alive. The flavors are ripe and sumptuous with a certain fat sweetness to its taste. Add to that a purity of fruit and flavor that was just outstanding! I should add that this Haut Brion held up over the entire course of dinner. It was a great treat and a pleasure to drink!