SPIT: Wine tasting menus!
John and Dottie, WSJ wine columnists known for their sunny outlook, go negative on NYC wine pairing menus. Le Bernardin takes it the hardest. To the tape: “”Very little went right. The sommelier didn’t hear a word we said…Each white wine was served in the same kind of glass…not one of the seven wines we were served was poured from a full bottle…Most important to us, the pairings themselves were uninspired….We felt very much like we had been treated as hayseed tourists who ordered the tasting and wine-pairing menus only because we didn’t know how to pronounce the names of any of the dishes or wines.” Price: $280–for the wine only. And a parting shot on the phenom: “when we order the tasting menu, the restaurant puts us on its schedule, which is generally too rushed.” [WSJ]
SIPPED: Amazon swirls and sniffs
Move over Manuka honey: Amazon may soon sell wine along with its growing non-perishable grocery line according to the Financial Times today. This would be a welcome entrant into the brier patch of online wine retail. The more retailers, the merrier the wine consumer! The story has a mention of fellow wine blogger Tom Wark. [FT.com]
SIPPED: foreign owners in Bordeaux
Properties producing mid-range wines on the periphery of Bordeaux have been squeezed in recent years. But they may find relief from foreign buyers as evidenced by Haiyan Cheng, 28-year-old daughter of “vastly wealthy Chinese businessman,” Zuochang Cheng. She bought a property–a first for a Chinese buyer in the region–for $3 million and plans to renovate it and expand the vineyards. [NYT]
SPIT: Merlot (again), this time for headaches?
Merlot can’t get no lovin’. Malolactic fermentation may improve the taste of red wines but it also fills them with tyramines and histamines, which cause allergic reactions in many people. “Merlots seem to be particularly high,” UC Berkeley Professor of Chemistry Richard Mathies said although his research is inconclusive. [Red orbit]
SIPPED: Amen to that!
Taking Communion may soon help Chilean farmers get a fair price for grapes. The clergy and parishioners at Manchester Cathedral evaluate the wine today for potential introduction as possibly the world’s first “Fairtrade” Communion wine. Seventy percent of the churches in the Diocese serve Fairtrade tea and coffee. [BBC]
SIPPED: Drink for causes, part II
“For each bottle of wine you purchase as futures from his Lookout Ridge Winery, [Sonoma vintner Gordon Holmes (and former Wall Street publisher)] donates a wheelchair in your name to one of the world’s 100 million needy people desperate for mobility.” Andy Erikson of Screaming Eagle fame is one of the winemakers. (find this wine) [Bloomberg]
Terroir, the new 500 sq ft wine bar in the East Village opens “at the end of February.” I caught up with Paul Grieco and talked about what the plan is for the new place. Here are some key words and phrases: edgy, Riesling, sense of place, gonna piss people off, Riesling, terroir, uber-terroir, open their minds, and…Riesling! Sounds like great stuff!
For those who don’t know him, the Paulster won a James Beard award for wine service when he was a Gramercy Tavern in 2002, then he and Marco Canora started Hearth in the East Village and later Insieme on 51st and 7th. Both the restaurants have great wine programs but this is their first wine bar! Read on for my Q&A with Paul! Or map Terroir at 413 E. 12th St. Read more…
Belinda Chang, 34, has been a sommelier at leading restaurants in three cities including Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Rick Tramonto’s Cenitare, and the Fifth Floor (Laurent Gras) in San Francisco where she was nominated for a James Beard award for excellence in wine service. In November last year, she started as the wine director at The Modern in New York City.
I asked her eight questions via email and discovered how she plans to change the wine list and what’s the best value wine, whether you can pair wine with art, what differentiates diners in those three cities, and find out why she has no wine in her wine cellar.
How did you get into wine? Read more…
“Choosing one Vino Volo wine flight has a sneaky way of begetting another,” wrote Pete Hellman in the NY Sun in September. He was doing some recon at the new wine bar at inside Terminal 8, on the right side of security. He tried the “Taste of New York” flight for $9 and mentions talking with a Finnish traveler who was taking his wine education seriously and on his third flight already. Good man.
Wine bars around America have been warming up to flights, a series of three or four small pours around a certain theme, say, a region or a grape variety. I like flights. If you’re going to order wine by the glass, which is generally an enormous rip-off, I figure why not use it to experiment. Who doesn’t love having multiple glasses in front of them? Well, it does matter what they contain, of course. And, to a certain extant, once you’ve had the flight once, you can move on to your faves.
One of the oddities about the vibrant NYC wine bar scene is that there are so few flights available. Wines by the glass, yes, with some places offering over 100 selections. Why not make some of those into flights? Comments are open for your theories on why flights have crashed and burned in NYC. And feel free to post the names of places that do have flights. Here, I’ll get the ball rolling: I Trulli, The Monday Room, Vino Volo…
See my map of NYC wine bars.
Have your say in the latest poll!
poll now closed
The hipsters at NY mag asked for help. Their reporter, Emma Rosenblum, went to eight different wine shops and asked the clerks for their wine pick under $25 for a steak dinner. (Steak? Come on, in this day and age of extracted fruit bombs, that’s no impossible food-wine pairing!) Then she poured the eight wines for three of NYC’s top sommeliers who gave them raspberries–and were not just talking “hints” of raspberry, these were full-on, nasty and slobbery. It’s a fascinating story that raises lots of issues. Among them:
1. Lame clerks. The clerks in the story were lame. That can happen, particularly this time of year as stores add temporary help. If you’re not convinced you’re getting great service, talk to another clerk, possibly the wine buyer for that department since you’re sure that he or she will be there to throttle come January, if necessary.
2. Shelf-talkers. Could the reporter have gotten better wines by keeping mum and letting those flaps of paper do the talking? I have an ongoing discussion with a cranky friend who says that store clerks are more reliable than wine magazines because: (a) magazines have compromised their ethics and (b) wine stores have their skin in the game because they want you to come back. Judging by this line-up though, not many stores in NYC are likely to have repeat business!
3. Sommeliers. It was an interesting idea to have restaurant wine sales people (sommeliers) judging the picks of store wine sales people. Is the sommelier more likely to steer you right be cause he or she is around to fear your immediate wrath or bask in your lavish praise after you drink the wine? (Btw, I hope NY mag does an encore edition, pouring sommelier selections back for wine buyers at stores. And with seasonal food this time!)
4. Friends. NY mag didn’t talk about them. But let’s add them to our poll for laffs.
So have your say in the latest poll!
poll now closed
Some wines are limited production and implement a sales strategy of either direct sales to a mailing list, on allocation through stores, or to restaurants. The first two options can be difficult or impossible to track down. Thus my interest in a new search tool for restos. Heck, I might even be willing to pay restaurant markups for the wine, once found!
Odds of this actually happening: 4,000 – 1.
Ray Isle has an cute article called “Holiday Wine Survival Guide” in the December issue of Food & Wine, which landed with a thud in my mailbox on Saturday. He offers many tips for the holidays including how much wine to have on hand (whoa, Ray, invite me over and send for the F&W stretch hummer afterward!), wine gifts, and some tips for temperature.
He also brings up the issue of renting or buying glasses for a big party. The appeal of renting is easy: it’s can be less than $1 a stem and you can often return the glasses unwashed. But then there’s the downside: generally poor glass quality, potentially high minimum charges for delivery, and, obviously, you’ve got nothing to show for your expenditure when the party’s over.
So break out the rent or buy calculators! My own calculations were just about finished when I saw that Ray recommended a decent-looking $3.95 stem from Crate and Barrel. But then I saw that it said “hand wash.” Whoa! Talk about a buzzkill cleaning several dozen glasses! I’ve had good luck with the Tritan Forte, which can be found for under $10 a stem, goes in the dishwasher, and is impact resistant (note: NOT break-proof).
What do you do for glasses at parties?
Economists love to point out that there is no free lunch. But there is something else nearly as good: fine dining for lower prices at lunch time.
On a vacation with your partner or family, splurging on lunch can have many benefits, first of which is clearly money. Many top restaurants offer lower prices for lunch than for dinner. Consider Paris, where a quick scan of some top spots shows the spread: Taillevent has a 70 euro lunch compared with 140 or 190 euro dinner menus. At the summer dining room at the Hotel Bristol, there’s a 90 euro lunch menu as opposed to the more expensive a la carte in the evening. And at Pierre Gagnaire, it’s 90 euro prix fixe lunch vs 225 for dinner.
You might have noticed that this is still dropping over $100+ on lunch–and we haven’t even gotten to the wine yet (tax and tip are included, however!). But I chose these high-end restaurants because they illustrate the cost-savings that are available at many restaurants in Paris and beyond.
In New York, reasonable gourmet lunches abound and are a fraction of Parisian prices. Read more…