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Screenwriter Robert Kamen on Why He Loves Tony’s

robert kamen

260 glasses… That’s the number of Riedel Sommelier Series wine glasses that were set Wednesday night by Tony’s wine stewards for a dinner honoring one of our country’s leading screenwriter’s, Robert Kamen, and the wines of his now legendary Sonoma estate where he grows red and white French grape varieties and where his first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested in 1999.

“I don’t dinners like these anymore,” said the prolific Hollywood storyteller, who has delivered iconic movies like Taps, The Karate Kid, The Fifth Element, and more recently Taken and Colombiana.

“Now, after ten years of traveling and selling my wines, I pay someone to do these dinners. But I love Tony’s so much and Tony Vallone is such a wonderful host and great restaurateur, I come to Houston every year and love these dinners we do.”

Above: Hijiki Tai with Seared Kobe, White Soy Yuzu Glaze, and Pickled Daikon, paired with 2010 Kamen Sauvignon Blanc.

Tony’s is really the only restaurant in Houston where you could host a world-class winemaker and inimitable personage like Kamen, who led a wine-pairing dinner, featuring his wines, for 60 of the city’s leading bon vivants (the dinner was hosted in the private “San Remo” dining room).

“My friend Tony’s cuisine is fantastic,” said Kamen, “and he’s a world-class host. They don’t make them anymore like Tony and I’m always thrilled to be here.”

Above: Butter Poached Lobster, Hudson Valley Foie Gras Duck Jus, Duck Tortelloni, Braied Fennel, paired with 2008 Kamen “Writer’s Block” Red Blend, Sonoma.

Thanks to their friendship, Tony’s features one of Kamen’s rarest wines on the restaurant’s list, a label available otherwise only at the winery, the coveted 2008 Kamen “Writer’s Block” Red Blend. (The play-on-words refers to the technical term block which denotes a parcel within a vineyard in wine parlance.)

Above: Seared Guinea Hen, Spiced Antelope Jus, Chanterelles, Broccoli Purée, paired with 2005 Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon.

And thanks to the fact that Tony has been collecting Robert’s wines over multiple vintages, guests were also treated to Kamen’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.

“When wines like these are allowed to age properly,” noted one of Houston’s leading wine writers who sat with Kamen during the dinner, “they can achieve marvelous elegance and nuance.”

Above: 40 Days Naturally Aged New York Strip, Cipollini Onion Bone Marrow Purée, Saba Jus, apired with 2007 Kamen Syrah.

And while Robert doesn’t shy from talking about his career as a screenwriter and sharing anecdotes about his friendships with Hollywood stars (like Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt), his tales of how he embraced biodynamic farming had the crowd of Houston’s best and brightest on the edge of their seats.

“No one was even thinking about biodynamic farming and growing Cabernet on a mountainside [as opposed to the Napa Valley floor] when I bought property in Sonoma back in 1979,” he recounted. It just so happens that the “hippie” who convinced him to purchase the land was Phil Coturri, now considered California’s leading viticulturist and one of the fathers of organic and biodynamic agriculture in the U.S. In many ways, noted another wine writer present, Kamen helped to reshape the way we conceive of fine wine in this country by letting Coturri experiment with his then avant-garde approach to growing fine wine grapes.

At the end of the evening, following his closing remarks, Robert presented with a signed six-liter bottle of his Cabernet Sauvignon.

“I usually only sign the label for people who purchase at least six bottles. But tonight I’ll make an exception,” he joked as he worked the room the way only an old-school Hollywood icon can.

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