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…
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.
SIPPED: wine on tap
Last week, New York magazine called self-serve wine tanks brilliant and highbrow. This week, their restaurant critics round-up the bourgeoning offerings of wine on tap. Fun as taps can be, let’s hope the cost savings are passed on to diners! [NY mag]
SIPPED: in vino, Veritas?
The NYC wine shrines Veritas and Cru, have closed according to the NYT. Grub Street reports that the lease for Veritas has been taken over and will now be a more casual place (with wine on tap?).
SIPPED: one for the road
A press release claims all 50 states (plus DC!) now allow diners to take unfinished wine with them from restaurants.
MUNCHED: Bordeaux 2010
Rabbits have descended on some vineyards in Bordeaux, one reporting 15 percent of the crop being eaten. At least some critics already like the 2010 vintage! Although “two paws up” was probably not the endorsement many property owners were seeking. [myfoxhouston.com]
SPIT: Strange brew, grand cru?
A British consumer claims to have found a frog in bottle of (Spanish) wine she was drinking. She has sued the retailer Asda. Ribbit! [Harpers.co.uk]
Pregnant women can have a drink or two a week without harming the baby according to a study published today in the Journal of Epidemiological and Community Health. The study used data drawing on 11,000 children. [Bloomberg]
SIPPED: ghost writing
Utah’s Atty General calls a beer industry lobbyist who drafted his recent testimony on HR 5034 simply “a scribe or secretary.” [WSJ]
SIPPED: one more reason to die with an empty cellar
UK Revenue agents are cracking down on valuing wine collections in estates at market value, not the cost basis. [FT]
Aria wine bar, opened last month in the West Village, emphasizes wines made using organic using biodynamic methods as well as wines made by women. Christy Frank, who owns a small wine shop downtown, tweeted that she was heading there last week to sample the all-women wine list, seeking out “Brix by chicks” (geek alert: Brix are a measure of sugar in grapes). Eric Asimov chimed in: “No pricks?” I asked Christy on Twitter if there was estrogen on tap. After her visit, she replied: “I was expecting a little more estrogen over all. Evenly split patrons. Manly staff. Tasty squid.”
While more details and opinions about Aria are forthcoming (check out some photos on urbandaddy), the nature of the wine list does raise an interesting question: should a wine list be structured to highlight almost exclusively women, who are woefully underrepresented in winemaking, or is that just a gimmick? Have your say in the comments or the latest poll!
Choose up to two responses
Hi, soon visiting New York for a wedding, my wife and I intend to do some NY touristing. Drinking good Italian wine I can do in Italy or in my home country (Sweden), but where to find a good selection of reasonably priced US wines in NY? -Johan
Interesting question! I assume Johan would be interested in a bar to drop into before or after his wedding festivities on an evening. New York City wine bars are dominated by lists that focus mostly or entirely on Italian wines; an emphasis on French wines is probably second. But since the demise of Vintage New York, which focused exclusively on wines of New York, nowhere really leaps out to me as having a preponderance of American wines. This may have to do with the fact that it is hard to find tasty American wines that retail for under $12 a bottle, thus putting them at a disadvantage in a restaurant situation with higher markups.
However, it is possible to put together a flight of American wines at a few places. Terroir Tribeca has five American wines available by the glass, with the small sizes all under $8, including a trio of New York State Rieslings. There are certainly better options at some restaurants that aren’t wine bars per se but have some bar areas; Gramercy Tavern is one possibility. But perhaps the best bar-bar for this type of request is Morell, which not only has several wine domestic reds and whites available by the glass, but affords possible celebrity viewing at Rockefeller Plaza.
What’s your theory as to why finding abundant American wines by the glass at NYC wine bars is such a challenge? And what are your suggestions for Johan?
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“