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james suckling uncorked

Another Outpost for Outstanding Wine


Posted: Aug 28, 2006 6:00am ET

I am always surprised to come across restaurants in unlikely places with excellent wines. For example, last night I took some friends to dinner at La Cucina di Danielle in Mykonos, and we drank some extraordinary wines from the restaurant’s wine list, including 2002 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape White Vieilles Vignes, 2000 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, and 1997 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto.

You might think that this isn’t any big deal. But think about it for a moment. This is on a small desert island where most people are more interested in cocktails and raving than fine wine. And getting serious bottles over here is next to impossible, although a new wine shop called Cellier has a good selection of some top wines, including 2003 Bordeaux. But what Danielle Chiantini does is really a labor of love. Many of the bottles on his small, well-chosen wine list are hand-carried from trips to Italy and other parts of the world. And he can talk with anyone about the latest top wine from Tuscany, Piedmont or anywhere else in Italy.

The wine of the evening was the Clerico Barolo, which was wonderfully perfumed with loads of crushed berries and hints of spices. It was full-bodied yet balanced, silky and refined. I would give it even more points than the 95 I originally gave it in a blind tasting – 97 points last night. The Beaucastel white was a bit closed and funky at first, but with air, it showed some of the ripe pineapple, vanilla and tropical fruit that I expected. Still, it was a slightly disappointing – 89 points. The 1997 Casanova Cerretalto was also less exciting than I expected, but I had this the other day at home and it was a knock-out. It was a little earthy and subdued last night, but it still showed outstanding fruit and structure. Leave that one for another year. 94 points. I think many of the top 1997s Brunellos will be drinking wonderfully next year, but they are still a bit tight now.

Be warned if you go to La Cucina di Danielle, however. The food is bad. I would rather not get into it, but who needs to eat fois gras on Mykonos? Some grilled local fish or delicate pasta would have complemented the wines perfectly…

George Fischer
Cleveland, Ohio —  August 28, 2006 10:47am ET
My wife and I went to Mykonos on our honeymoon and, while we had an amazing time, we did not come accross any of the wines that you mentioned. Sometimes, there is something to be said for ordering a simple grilled fish entre, sitting back, and just enjoying a mythos! A quick question, have you come accross any good Greek wines on your trip?
James Suckling
 —  August 28, 2006 10:51am ET
George: I knew someone would say that! Alas, I have not been drinking many. Everyone is talking about a wine called Alpha. But I haven't tried it yet.
Stephen Foster
August 28, 2006 12:02pm ET
Bad form, James. You rave about this establishment's good, hard earned wine list but then critcize the food. Guess what? You just hurt this quaint restaurant's business because most people will go there to EAT, not just drink wine. Never criticize a restaurant's food on a whim, unless you are a food critic there to critique the FOOD. We restauranteurs have a hard enough time paying the bills without people's negative opinions. I'm sure Danielle is mortified, as I would be.
James Suckling
 —  August 28, 2006 2:58pm ET
Stephen, I write restaurant reviews all the time. And I know the restaurant. Danielle can improve things, and that's why I am critical. Nobody seems honest enough to say it.
James Peterson
San Antonio, Texas —  August 28, 2006 3:17pm ET
I don't know James, I think I'm for eating fois gras just about anywhere--although not perhaps with the wines you mentioned. It's a good thing I've only had one bottle of my many 1997 Brunellos I guess, but when I drank my '97 Lisini it was just outstanding (and I'm happy to concede the 95 point rating--although I'm still awaiting that one blog posting where you just describe a wine, any wine, without a point value). And I agree with Stephen about the food comment. Who would want to spend that kind of money on the wine when the food is supposedly that terrible? Mortified indeed. - Jim
Paul Anderson
Longview, TX —  August 28, 2006 6:00pm ET
I know James that for now I can only dream of getting to the places that you write about. I enjoy very much the virtual trips you make possible. When I finally do get to visit Italy, I will rely on recommendations from you and others who offer sound guideance. I would be thankful to have such honest advice that would help me avoid an unpleasant experience.
Christopher Hills
Seattle, WA —  August 28, 2006 6:06pm ET
James, your comments are very timely! I was going to write you and ask about opening a '97 Flacianello later this week for a special dinner. Since I only have one of these (back from the days when I was not able to buy more than one of such luxuries), and based upon your comments, would I be better off waiting on this? I drank a '97 Col d'Orcia Brunello a couple of months ago and was happy with how it was drinking, but Flaccianello is a different beast, so would appreciate any advice you can offer. Thanks in advance and I always appreciate your thoughts on wine and your travels through and life in Europe... - Chris
James Suckling
 —  August 29, 2006 3:01am ET
James: That's why I had to write about it. But Danielle does a great job with the wine and his prices are at the same price or less than US retail. So a green salad and cheese might be the answer....
Guus Hateboer
Netherlands —  August 29, 2006 4:05am ET
I guess JS is just honest, much appreciated. When the food is bad, it's bad, when the wine list rules, it rules. And those points: very amuzing! Two weeks ago, in Tuscany, I had several Brunello's: the La Magia Brunello Riserva from 1997 wasn't there yet, but nevertheless showing off. The Brunello from Val d'Orcia from 1997 was corked, big time. But the 2000 Brunellos from Casanova di Neri and Fanti San Filippo were both absolutely awesome. James, would you recommend to keep the 1997's for a while (in general), but drink the 2000's Brunellos?
James Suckling
 —  August 29, 2006 4:57am ET
GusThanks for the words of support.I would definitely drink 2000 Brunellos and hold 2001, 1999 and 1997. The 1998s also are drinking well. Casanova di Neri is one of the best producers in Montalcino at the moment and I like Fanti as well.
Stephen Foster
August 29, 2006 1:02pm ET
James, honesty is definitetly needed and refreshing, but there is a difference between being honest and being damaging. These latest responses make that point. No one who reads your article will ever eat at Danielles, so they will also not see his list or drink his wine. Why even write the piece? You basically said I found a place with a great wine list but don't go there. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy your blogs and Wine Spectator, but honesty requires intellectual honesty too. Is the food really that "bad"? Have you had everything on the menu? Is some of the food really bad (brown salad) and the rest you just don't like because it doesn't go well with your favorite wines (fois gras)? Instead of being brutal you could say something like "if only the food was as good as the wines". I think anyone who has ever owned their own business would agree with me.
James Suckling
 —  August 29, 2006 1:32pm ET
May be I was too brutal. I give you that Stephen. I was with six people (one who is a chef with Ducasse). We had about eight different dishes. All flopped. Two of the people had been a couple of times this summer and found the same thing. What more can I say?I will go back next summer and give the food another try.
Stephen Foster
August 30, 2006 12:13am ET
Didn't mean to badger you James. You were right to warn your readers. Its just an issue thats close to my heart. You are definitely the man when it comes to old world reds. They have become my favorites. I'd like to pick your brain sometime as to how to convince my customers of the same thing. Keep up the good work.
James Suckling
 —  August 30, 2006 3:02am ET
Stephen. No problem. Thanks for you comments!
Daniele Chiantini
Mykonos, Greece —  September 1, 2006 9:56am ET
Dear James,Thanks for write about my wine list. I'm not complain about what you wrote about the food. This is your opinion, and I must respected.May be You should tell me that in a different way also to me in person.This is my only comment about your artical.Daniele
Daniele Chiantini
Mykonos, Greece —  September 1, 2006 10:42am ET
Caro james,Grazie per aver menzionato la mia lista dei vini con cosi' grande enfasi.Per quanto riguarda il cibo cosa dire?Non pensi che sia abbastanza riduttivo giudicare terribile il cibo di un ristorante solo con una cena?Le persone che dici che erano con te e che sono venute a mangiare "a couple of time thi summer" stanno mentendo ho visto solo una volta il nostro amico comune che ha mangiato solo un rib-eye.And, at the end, Why you dosen't tell me nothing in person about my bad food?I respect your opinions but I just prefer person straight.Thank you very muchDaniele

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