Hey, what's wrong with a restaurant making money on food? Does the wine list nearly always have to be the profit center for a restaurant?
Maybe these two questions are not fair, considering the cost of starting and running a restaurant these days, especially in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles or New York. But I still feel like asking these questions just about once or twice a month. We just pay too much in restaurants for a good bottle of wine. We all know that some restaurants mark up three, four or even five times.
Anyway, I went to a restaurant a few weeks ago with my dad, stepmother, brother, and son in San Diego County, and it was one of the few United States eateries that I have been to in a long time that was apparently making money on its food, and the owners were just happy with that. At least that's what the manager of The 3rd Corner in Encinitas, Calif., told me when I asked him about his reasonable prices for wine. Thank you!
My buddy James Laube wrote about 3rd corner's other location, in the Ocean Beach neighborhood, but he didn't mention that all the wines are sold at retail, plus a $5 corkage fee. Check out my video of the place. Jack, my 14-year-old, did the camera work.
I picked out a 2005 Rudi Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Trocken Wachau Wösendorfer Hochrain. According to our database, I actually paid less than the release price. It was $42, including the corkage. It showed lots of tropical fruit and peach character. It was full and rich yet dry and minerally on the finish. I love a good Grüner Veltliner. I gave it 90 points, non-blind. My dad (a California Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc man) totally dug it. "What a delicious wine!" he said.
I also picked out a 2005 Alex Gambal Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes, which I always wanted to try, and at $55, I thought, what the hell! Sure, it was just a baby, but what a pretty one at that. It showed bright strawberry and floral aromas with a sweet red fruit undertone. It was full-bodied, with silky tannins and a fruity finish. It was a little simple, but it was tight and slightly closed. It will be much better in five or six years, but I still gave it 92 points, non-blind.
The food is also very good at 3rd Corner. It's what I would describe as French bistro food with good California ingredients. My scallops were perfectly seared and the veggies were crisp and tasty. I can't remember what everybody else ate.
My brother David was "stoked" (he lives at the beach). "The wine prices make it here," he said, as he finished the red Burgundy in his glass. "We drank a $50 bottle in a restaurant that should have cost us $150 or more."
That's the truth, brother. Do you know of similar restaurants, anywhere in the world, with such a great wine list policy? Please, share the knowledge.