Steve Cuozzo, restaurant critic for the NY Post, has a rant about wine lists today (“Sour Grapes“). He complains about “esoteric or pretentious” wine lists, filled with Greek wines and grapes he’s never heard of and producers he doesn’t know. Such lists leave him stumped and “at the mercy of a sommelier determined to teach you a thing or two, when all you want is a nice, affordable Bordeaux to go with chicken and summer greens.”
He sure plays a good curmudgeon! But he does have a point: wine can be overwhelming and it’s common to feel swamped when trying to navigate a wine list. Some diners may feel overwhelmed with any list while others, like Cuozzo, may have taken the training wheels off and feel comfortable with certain regions (though pairing Bordeaux with chicken and mixed greens does make the reader wonder about his palate–really, try the assyrtiko.).
All the places that Cuozzo describes in his column sound like they have serious wine programs with someone on staff who has created a wine list with some wines he or she is really excited about. Rather than feeling at the “mercy” of said person, Cuozzo would be best advised to engage that person in discussion about what’s good and what they would recommend with chicken and mixed greens, hear a bit of the story of those who made the wine or how it was made. Who knows, if he did that a few times, he might even learn a thing or two about them there “esoteric” varieties, and feel more comfortable ordering wine off of such lists himself. Then the grapes would not be sour to him, and he could offer advice to his readers about how sweet it is to be armed with a bit more wine knowledge.
What do you do when you encounter a wine list dominated by wines you don’t know much about?
Daniel Boulud’s various restaurants have attracted wine geeks not just for the thoughtful food preparations to pair with the fruits of the vine but also for the gems in the cellar. Michael Madrigale at Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud has been offering glass pours from rare big bottles for a while.
Now Caleb Ganzer, the new sommelier at DB Bistro Modern in midtown, and Daniel Johnnes, Corporate Wine Director for the Boulud restaurants, have started public bidding for wines on Twitter that prospective diners can enjoy in the restaurant. Each Monday at noon, he lists a wine’s starting bid, tags it with #DBwinebid, and, via Twitter, the can bid it up during the following 24 hours or so (highest bid at 5 PM each Tuesday wins). Recent offerings included a 2011 Turley white zinfandel starting at $10, a 1988 Gruaud Larose that was won for $80, and Coche-Dury Meursault 2008 for $160. The current offering is a G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny, 2009 with a bid of $100, cheaper than many retailers list the wine. Don’t forget that in a timed online auction, sniping can often lead to success.
A chuckle-worthy video from the folks at CollegeHumor.com. “Impress your friends with a year that’s not the current year because–trust us–that’s good.”
King Solomon was known for his wisdom. And when he ordered a baby cut in half, he made a woman cry.
John Slover is the Solomonic sommelier, though his splitting things in two is more likely to make people happy. When at Bar Henry, he introduced a bottle-splitting program, wherein diners could order 375ml of a regular bottle for only half the full-bottle price (No upcharge! The remaining 375ml is then available to other diners.). This encourages diners to experiment, by, as an example, having a half a bottle of white with appetizers and a half a bottle of red with the main course.
He’s continuing the wisdom of this strategy at Ciano, where he is the wine director at the restaurant that opened last year with Shea Gallante in the kitchen. Slover said wine sales have been strong, adding that the bottle-splitting program “has made money, certainly not lost any.” Two diners sometimes buy a full bottle and then order another half that they wouldn’t have normally ordered to try something new.
Slover divided the wine list into a “market” list where the splitting is allowed and a “reserve” list where it it is not. Unless he can broker a share on one of the pricey bottles. And he has done so, for example, selling a DRC Echézeaux 1985 for $1,200 per half to two tables. One evening, knowing a Rhone fan dining in the restaurant, he proposed a half of 1995 Henri Bonneau, reserve des Célestins, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The diner said, “Bring it on.” Then Slover proposed it to another diner who might be interested and he said “absolutely.” They enjoyed it so much they then went halvsies on a 1985 Rayas.
Let’s just hope Slover keeps his saber sheathed while doing his trademark bottle splitting. That would make us all weep.
Ciano, 45 E. 22nd Street, 212-982-8422
Eric Asimov’s column in the Times today highlights ten restaurants with strong selections of wines under $50. What are notable restaurants you would add to the list?
Wine under $50 certainly has obvious appeal. But it also has pitfalls, notably dull selections available at stores or supermarkets for $10 might appear for $40 on a list. That’s why there’s a paradoxical diner skepticism: on the one hand, we love a deal but on the other hand, we are apparently incredulous that lower-priced wine could actually be good. Pascaline Lepeltier of Rouge Tomate flagged this for us earlier, and she tweeted an elaboration yesterday about the place of wines under $50 and diner psychology:
i would say it is mainly the area where people may not expect to find good AND cheap wines; so you have to convince them
So which places can you cast aside your possible skepticism and order with confidence from the under $50 selections?
Any restaurant that (a) has a credo; (b) has a credo in Latin; and (c) has a credo that relates to health is on a mission. Such is the case at Rouge Tomate, a Michelin one-star, where the credo is Sanitas Per Escam (Health Through Food). But this is no grungy spot with Birkenstock-clad waiters; rather, it is a gorgeous 15,000-sq ft space around the corner from Barneys. So, which wine do you pair with nutritious gastronomy that favors local and rejoices in natural?
In the three years since the restaurant opened on the Upper East Side, that question has been the domain of Pascaline Lepeltier. Read more…
The London riots are simultaneously shocking and horrifying, so much so that the prime minister even came back from his Tuscan vacation to appear to address the issue.
The rioters moved on the Michelin two-star restaurant, The Ledbury, in Notting Hill yesterday. Blogger Louise Yang was there and describes the scene as looters wearing hoodies and masks smashed a plate glass window in the dining room, burst in, and stole her wedding and engagement rings right off her finger.
The kitchen staff scared off the looters, she writes, by brandishing rolling pins and fry baskets. The staff then tried to soothe nerves by offering everyone champagne and whisky. Stiff upper lip! When word spread that the looters were circling back to the restaurant, the staff told diners to go to the wine cellar and lock themselves in.
For stealing her rings, Yang wished the looters “a case of flaming diarrhea for the rest of your life.”
Best wishes to the restaurant staff and diners as they try to put things back together. And, of course, to the country at this time of societal fracture. (ht: eater)
Paul Grieco, director of all things wine at restaurants Hearth and Terroir, is clearly a man of opinions: consider that as of today, for the third annual “summer of Riesling,” the only white wine available by the glass at Terroir (both locations), will be Riesling. He has used his wine list as a soap box for many years, heralding unsung grapes, praising Chateau Musar in Lebanon, and giving away sherry every day from 4 – 6 PM.
Now, on page one of his wine list, Grieco entered a high-profile fray in the NYC dining scene by vividly showing his support for restauranteur Chris Cannon, who abruptly closed his restaurants Alto and Convivio recently. (The closings were part of the fallout from a dispute with Cannon’s former business partners chef Michael White and investor Ahmass Fakahany, who together own Marea, Ai Fiori, and Osteria Morini.) Who needs a blog to rant when you can you can print your views on a wine list?
On a related note, even if the Krug was not properly chilled on a private jet bound for Aspen last week, it must have been a frosty trip since Grieco and Michael White were onboard.