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Dueling Wine Lists


Posted: Oct 12, 2006 4:48pm ET

The sommelier at one of New York’s newest steak houses, Porter House New York, knew right away something was up when James Laube and I arrived at the table with an editor of Cigar Aficionado, David Savona, and we asked for two wine lists.

“So it’s dueling wine lists tonight, huh?” she said, with an amused smile.

The plan was that each of us would pick a wine on the list, it would be served blind, and we would decide which was better. Savona was supposed to be the tiebreaker.

I quickly spotted a 2001 La Grave à Pomerol on the list and ordered it while Laube found something that I assumed was from California. The sommelier decanted the two wines and poured them into two separate glasses for each of us at the table.

You would have to be a dummy to not figure out which was from Bordeaux and which was from California. One wine (mine) was fresh, delicate and refined on the palate, with a long, caressing finish. It was so subtle and beautiful to drink. The other one was dark-colored, almost black, with masses of fruit jumping out of the glass combined with vanilla oak. It was full-bodied and mouthcoating, with velvety tannins and a long finish--California. It was like comparing a sexy pole dancer to a beautiful ballerina--I wouldn’t like to say which I prefer as far as dancers. Laube’s red was a 2003 Napa Valley Syrah called Hill Climber Pilgrimage.

Laube preferred his and I preferred mine. Not much of a surprise. But Savona wimped out and he said that he liked both the wines. He thought that they were both outstanding quality. I did too, but I still liked mine better!

The release price for my wine (in 2004) is listed in our database at $30 a bottle, and I recently saw it at Zachy’s for about $35 a bottle. It’s a steal. In fact, lots of 2001 Bordeaux are well-priced as the market continues to focus only on 2005, 2003, 2000 and other top, more mature vintages. I am going to drink more 2001s while I am in the States.

And by the way, don’t miss Porter House New York. The food is excellent. Chef Michael Lomonaco is grilling up great steaks and his side dishes are not your usual lead-filled creamed spinach and greasy fries. Everything from roasted vegetables to sautéed mushrooms on polenta is delicate and delicious. It reminds me of a one star Michelin brassiere in Paris. He was at Windows on the World and '21' Club, among others, and he continues to cook focused and delicious food. In addition, the restaurant’s view from the Time Warner building is extraordinary. You would have to go to Per Se to get the same, and that would mean at least a dozen courses and a lot more money. So go to Porter House and decide for yourself if you like Laube’s wine or mine better!

Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  October 13, 2006 9:52am ET
Going by ratings alone .. you should tell him your wine was rated higher then his wine. The irony =)
Paul Manchester
Santa Cruz, CA —  October 13, 2006 1:32pm ET
This is exactly what makes wine so interesting and sometimes frustrating. Everybody's pallete differs, causing one person to appreciate something about a wine that someone else might not. Also, in my opinion, Bordeaux's are a little harder to appreciate because of their tendancy to be on the side of finesse and not so fruit bomby. Although I'm sure that Laube's palette is much more developed than mine and could appreciate Bordeaux even more than I could. The point is, everybody is different in what they like, and can even change on any given night. I've noticed that I've struggled to enjoy certain wines that I know that I've liked on other occasions. Maybe it was bottle variation, etc... but it does seem that I sometimes have a more dull palette than usual. Is this possible?? Anyway, I vote for the 2001 La Grave. Especially with food, there's just something about Bordeaux with food that is just hard to beat.
Dan Jaworek
Chicago —  October 13, 2006 1:47pm ET
James,One thing that your experiment show is the shortcomings of the point system and how subjective they must be. While James L prefered his wine, you liked yours more. Assuming James L was rating Bordeaux wines and you CA, I can assume the ratings we see in each issue would look different. Thats why I always warn people about ratings and advise them to get to know the palate of the person reviewing them. You may not share the same enthusiasm as they do. Dan J.
James Suckling
 —  October 13, 2006 2:00pm ET
I did prefer mine. But as I wrote, they were very different. I was impressed with the big juicy Syrah as well! You are right though. You need to calibrate your palate against mine or anybody else...
Paul Paradis
montreal, canada —  October 14, 2006 10:39am ET
There was a "coquille" in your last blog about Porter House Steak House.. You wrote: "Paris brassiere"which is a bra while you probably meant"Paris brasserie"where one can also find something to enjoy.I enjoy reading your blogs.Paul Paradis
James Suckling
 —  October 14, 2006 6:41pm ET
Thanks Paul. That was a Freudian slip! LOL!!

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