This week’s big story is the dramatic, emergency-slide resignation of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater. Following verbal abuse from a passenger, he took to the PA system to let everyone on board know that he’d had enough, popped the inflatable emergency slide, threw down his carry-ons, grabbed a couple of beers from the drinks cart, and then slid down to the tarmac and walked to the employee parking lot at JFK.
Working in a restaurant is also a high-pressure situation (though fortunately, there’s not TSA screening for diners). So, turning this incident to the wine world: What would it take for a sommelier to shout expletives at diners, hit the fire alarm, grab two fave bottles, and run out the back door?
I put the question to Jean-Luc Le Dû, who was in the restaurant business for 20 years, the last ten as chef sommelier at the acclaimed Restaurant Daniel. (He now runs his own wine shop, Le Dû’s Wines, in the West Village.) It turns out that he actually did walk out of a job once! And I also asked him which two bottles he would have grabbed from the famed cellar at Daniel if he had made a dramatic exit.
Have you ever looked at a wine list and wished that you might want to try a half a bottle of one wine and a half a bottle of another wine? At Bar Henry, that dream can become reality.
John Slover, who previously worked at Cru, has assembled a wine list with 116 wines on the “market” list. Order any wine off this list and they will pour off half of it and charge you–gasp!–half the price of the full bottle. The remaining 375ml goes behind the bar and the wine gets written on a big mirror, where it is then in play and available for purchase by other diners, either as a half or by the glass. (The list also has 24 wines offered by-the-glass.) It’s a fun and innovative feature that offers the opportunity to try different wines at reasonable prices. The market list includes mostly French and Italian wines but also has selections from the US, Germany, Austria among other countries. Producers include: Tue-Boeuf, Belliviere, Knoll, Zilliken, Auguste Clape, Marquis d’Angerville, Paolo Bea and Cristom.
Bar Henry’s creativity features in a story that I wrote on the theme in the June 15 issue of the magazine Sommelier Journal.
Unfortunately it’s not on their website, but if you are a subscriber, check out the story on the back page.UPDATE: the column is now online! Check it out at sommelierjournal.com.
Which wine bars or restaurants have you been to that are doing fun and innovative things?
Related: Bar Henry, 90 West Houston Street, (646) 448-4559 (map it)
“Finding a deal on the wine list at Bar Boulud in NYC“
Wine enthusiasts always enjoy getting affordable wines with tasty food at restaurants. Throw in a winemaker and it becomes a real event! Fortunately, there are a few interesting such winemaker dinners coming on the calendar in NYC soon. Of note:
April 19 at Rouge Tomate: Michel Delhommeau of Muscadet and Laetitia Gendrier of Domaine Huards in Cheverny will be among eight Loire winemakers on hand for a four-course dinner. Wine reception starts at 6:30. $95+tax and tip. (646) 237-8977
April 22 at Dressler (Williamsburg): a five-course dinner with Klauss Gasser, winemaker at Cantina Terlano in Alto Adige. Features four wines from 2005. (718) 384-6343
April 22 at Crush Wine & Spirits: not a dinner but a free, “epic” (their word) tasting of Gruner Veltliner from producers including Nikolaihof, Prager, FX Pichler, Brundlmayer and more…(Unlike the others, no producers on hand for this event.) 5:30 – 7:30. Food pairings from Seasonal restaurant. Must RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
And two arranged through Chambers Street Wines:
April 22: the distinctive, oxidized whites and high-acid reds of Jura will be offered in a private room at The Ten Bells in a walk-around, mingling, small plate tasting. More than a half-a-dozen producers will be in attendance. $55. (212) 227-1434
April 23 at General Greene (Fort Greene): a four-course dinner with excellent Loire producers Francois Chidaine (Montlouis and Vouvray) and Mattieu Baudry of Domaine Bernard Baudry (Chinon). Six wines will be served including two Montlouis still wines as well as Baudry’s top wine, La Croix Boisée. $90 (includes tax and tip) (212) 227-1434
UPDATE: Please note that the disruptions in European travel may have altered these events. Please double check with the organizers.
We all want to order wine like a pro at a restaurant. But apparently ordering wine off a wine list is an extremely pressure-filled situation for many people, ranking right up there with fear of public speaking and fear of grizzly bears. So with a new, recurring feature on this site, we aim to help you order wine like with aplomb and find an excellent deal.
Although regular wine markup in restaurants is 300 percent of the wholesale cost, many wine lists have hidden deals. There are any number of reasons why they exist: Perhaps the sommelier has a soft spot for an unheralded grape and slips it on the list with a low markup or maybe there is a closeout item and the restaurant passes on the savings.
Today’s such gem comes from Bar Boulud. To accompany the restaurant’s extensive charcuterie menu, wine director Michael Madrigale runs an innovative program that focuses largely on wines from the Rhone and Burgundy. One of the exciting things he does is feature a different large format bottle, often a rare mature wine, open it and pour it by the glass. (Follow on Twitter to see which wines are being poured.)
But one deal that he doesn’t telegraph is what he calls “the nugget.” On the wine list at any given moment is a wine that Madrigale puts on for the wholesale cost (that is to say, even below retail). He doesn’t highlight the item and it’s often an obscure, wine geek’s wine and his stock can be quickly depleted. Diners have to spot the wine on the list as being an outrageous value, and then order it and accept it. At that point Madrigale lets them know the value they have uncorked. “Usually, they are quite happy about their choice,” he says. Previous such wines have included Chapoutier’s ’04 Cornas “Les Arenes” for $55 and the Chateau Grillet 2004.
So order wine like an insider when next at Bar Boulud. The current nugget is…Eric Texier, 2000 Hermitage rouge for $69.
1900 Broadway (between 63rd & 64th) New York, NY 10023
Tim Harford writes a column in the weekend FT called “Dear Economist: Resolving readers’ dilemmas with the tools of Adam Smith.” This week he takes up the topic of wine thanks to a letter from a student who wants to impress his girlfriend in a restaurant despite being on a budget. Here’s Harford’s advice:
You assume that the price of the wine and its quality can be neatly separated out. This seems reasonable, but is wrong. Price changes the very experience of quality. Neuro-economists have found, for instance, that while placebo painkillers work, they work best if the subject thinks they are expensive. Energy drinks give you less energy if you buy them at a discount. (Yes, really.) And of course, wine tastes better if you believe that it is expensive.
One possibility is to conceal the price of wine from your girlfriend and tell her you’re buying the expensive stuff when in fact you are buying the house red. This is a white lie: many people prefer the taste of cheap wine in blind tastings, and by claiming it is expensive you will quite genuinely improve the way she thinks it tastes.
Perhaps. But buying expensive wine might make the student look profligate. Or like a chump since price is actually an unreliable indicator of a wine’s quality especially as there are so many values in the market today. And, if caught, passing off Prosecco at vintage Champagne prices might deflate more than the bubbles on the table.
In fact, there are other ways for this student to impress rather than price: I say choose a restaurant with a good wine list, order a Zweigelt, an easy-drinking red from Austria that suffers a discount because nobody thinks they can pronounce it, or a lip-smacking, natural cru Beaujolais. After she has tried it and loves it, tell her the wine is a steal. Or go to a nice BYOB and scope out something at a good shop beforehand. You don’t have to be an economist to think that finding a terrific wine value is pretty damn sexy.
What’s your advice?
I stopped by SD26 on a recent weeknight and things were hopping. The restaurant, opened on Madison Square in September to the tune of $7 million, boasts a wine bar in the front. Tony May, who previously owned the traditional San Domenico, told the New York Times that with SD26 “We aim for the cutting edge.”
Sustainable wine? Organic wine? Been there, drank that. Now: Mafia-free wine! The Sicilian label, Libra Terra, will guarantee that pasta, olive oil and wine will have the “taste of freedom.” [Global Post]
SIPPED: American wine
The White House continues pouring only American wines, so far from four states at official events. The first state dinner is coming up next month–stay tuned for what the Obamas pick for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh! [Obamafoodarama]
SPIT: American wine; SIPPED: generosity
While dining in lower Manhattan last weekend, Chief Justice John Roberts and his wife Jane sipped a bottle of Villa Mangiacane, a Chianti. When they finished their meal, they offered the rest of the wine to a neighboring table, specifically, Gay Talese who blogged about it for City Room.
SIPPED: wine service tips
A budding restaurateur offers his first 50 service tips for his staff, including several wine related ones including “For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour.” [You're the Boss, NYT]
SPIT: old vines; SIPPED: apartment complex
Philip White, a wine writer in Australia, has a scathing critique of Constellation, one of the world’s largest wine makers and marketers, and their apparent plans to scale back in Australia. Particularly irksome to him was the uprooting of John Reynell’s 161-year-old vines at Reynella; 41 “tiny apartments” will replace the vines. [INDAILY]
With restaurant markups commonly 300 or 400 percent you could be forgiven for answering, “never.” But right now, there’s a restaurant in NYC where the head sommelier is clearing out his inventory. Unfortunately, he’s already blown through most of the wines that cost him less than $300. But for all (both?) the high rollers out there, the wines that he bought for north of $300 and he has multiple bottles of, he’s happy to part with them for as little as $100 above his cost. As silly as it sounds, that means that a wine that costs $750 a bottle in a store might only cost $600 at the restaurant!
Consider another example. The sommelier told me that one patron wanted to spend $900 on the Domaine Romanee Conti, Grands Echezaux, 2005. But the sommelier asked him if he would like a better wine that’s drinking better now, the DRC, La Tache, 2006 for $750. The diner readily accepted. Fancy that, a downsell! (is that even a word?)
The price reductions are indicated not on the wine list, however. The somm told me that he gives them mainly to regulars or “people who seem nice.” So if you have an anniversary, marriage proposal, big birthday, or other celebratory event coming up no matter which fine restaurant you’re in, it might not hurt to indicate your (high) price point and ask if that’s the most exciting thing in that vein (cough**cough**price) on the wine list.
Unfortunately, the sommelier requested anonymity since he said that there is no across-the-board policy. But in other NYC deals, Veritas, the wine shrine on 20th St., is offering 25% off all wines on the list. And Bar Boulud is offering a “Pannier du jour,” wherein a magnum, jerobaum, imperial or Methusalem is hauled up from the cellar, uncorked and sold by the glass for between $19 and $29 a glass. It may sound like a lot but some recent selections have included the 04 Jadot Bonnes-Mares (3L) and the 1978 Ducru Beaucaillou (mag). Maybe if you get the last glass you could take the bottle home?
At the lower-priced value end, Perry Street, Jojo, and Vong each offers a red and a white bottle of wine for $20 at lunch time as well as a $5 wine by the glass.
Hit the comments with other deals you know about!