Restaurants are going to have to give their customers a lot of love in these difficult economic times, especially if the places are serving wine lovers like you and me. Otherwise, we will simply not go there any more. Spending a lot of money in a restaurant has to include everything and more these days.
I thought about this after two distinctly different wine experiences in restaurants in New York City over the last couple of days. I was in the Big Apple for the Wine Experience, as you probably already knew. (It was awesome, by the way, especially my 2005 Bordeaux tasting.)
Anyway, my loveless wine experience in a restaurant occurred at Esca, the popular Italian fish restaurant. I went there with four winemakers, including Jean Luc Zuger of Château Malescot St. Exupery, Jean-Michel Laporte of Château La Conseillante, Jean-Guillaume Prats of Château Cos d’Estournel and Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare. We were all looking forward to some fresh fish and good Italian wines. And the French were gearing up for their 2005 Bordeaux tasting the next day at the Wine Experience.
The food was fabulous, both raw and cooked, particularly the pastas. But the wine service was dismal. Not once did our wine arrive on time for the food. The sommelier was just completely out of sync. Moreover, we ordered a bottle of 2005 Bastianich Tocai Plus (the owner’ own wine) and it was oxidized, yet the sommelier refused to take it back. We paid $144 for it. Ouch! Granted, I tasted it and I thought it wasn’t all the bad at first, but when it was poured to all of us, the oxidation was evident. We just left the glasses full and I told her it wasn’t very good. But no love. It went on the bill.
I don’t want to belabor the whole thing, but it just left a bad feeling with all of us after leaving the restaurant paying close to $200 a head. “The sommelier just didn’t know what she was doing,” said Zuger as we left.
By comparison, a dinner at Bar Boulud a few days later with winemakers Stefano Moccagatta of Villa Sparina and Luca Sanjust of Petrolo and a couple of other friends was full of love. Sommelier Chris Scocca took charge and turned us on to some amazing bottles, and at good prices, too. I asked him for a recommendation for a 2005 red Burgundy that was not going to break the bank and he suggested a Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes which was wonderful with floral, mineral and berry character that lasted for minutes on the palate. It was clean and so refined. A 2006 Radio-Coteau Syrah Sonoma Coast Las Colinas that followed was equally inspiring, with lots of freshness yet bold and meaty character and clean fruit. We asked him for a serious Syrah from California and he delivered. And neither bottle broke the bank.
|A heart made of spilled wine at Bar Boulud in New York.|
My friends wanted to try a Pinot Noir from Beaux Frères, the Oregon winery in which critic Robert Parker is a partner (along with his brother-in-law Michael Etzel, the winery's managing partner, and business manager Robert Roy). So we ordered the 2006 Beaux Frères Ribbon Ridge The Beaux Frères Vineyard. I thought it was sort of low-key, with a light vanilla, plum and strawberry character, medium body and a simple finish. It was annoying that there was some CO2 present as well, so it was a little fizzy. The Italians thought it was boring. It was expensive, too. We should have stuck to Scocca's recommendations! An awesome glass of sweet and layered 1999 Diznókó Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos made up for the Beaux Frères bottle.
Considering the great bistro food – my sautéed skate in lemon and capers was delicious, as were as the crisp French fries I stole from Stefano – delicious wines and professional service, Bar Boulud is a place I will be going back to soon. Besides, look at the photo with this blog. There’s a little heart in spilled wine next to my glass taken at the restaurant. What more could a wine lover want on a Sunday night with friends?