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Cinquiéme Avenue

Lespinasse brings French classicism to the heart of New York

Thomas Matthews
Posted: September 21, 2000

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Cinquiéme Avenue

Lespinasse brings French classicism to the heart of New York

Lespinasse has been a great restaurant since it opened in 1991. But it took nearly a decade of hard work before its wine cellar reached the stellar caliber of its kitchen.

Located in the luxurious St. Regis hotel, Lespinasse epitomizes the grand dining tradition. The opulent dining room feels like a French château with its high ceilings, liberal use of gilding and brilliant floral displays. Those who enjoy the rituals of formality will find Lespinasse an unrivaled haven of privacy, comfort and elegance.

When Lespinasse entered Wine Spectator's awards program in 1994, the wine list offered nearly 400 selections. Wine director Joseph Nase, who arrived in 1997, has built a list that now offers 1,650 selections drawn from an inventory of 25,000 bottles. What was once primarily a French list with a few international selections has become a treasure trove of great wines from around the world, with exceptional strength in red and white Burgundy and California.

Among the highlights are mini-collections from great producers: Krug Champagne to 1976; Heitz Martha's Vineyard to 1969; Château Latour to 1945. In addition to the classics, there are many "cult" wines, including Marcassin Chardonnays, Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignons and Priorats from Alvaro Palacios. An extraordinary range of 250 half-bottles is also noteworthy. Prices have generally been high, but Nase has worked to reduce them; now there are many wines under $50 and good values for diners with adventurous tastes.

Joseph Nase, 43, who was instrumental in attaining a Grand Award in 1991 at Fournou's Ovens in San Francisco, has the knowledge and experience to use the cellar to the best advantage of his customers. Sommelier Danielle Nally is a fine addition to his team. Working together with chef Delouvrier, they create seasonal, multicourse menus in which each dish is paired with a wine chosen as part of a theme: an all-Champagne dinner, a menu featuring the Rhône wines of M. Chapoutier or, for spring, a tour of Alsace. These extravagant meals offer a complex harmony of flavors. They are a testament to the importance of a great wine list in supporting an ambitious restaurant and to the success of Lespinasse in creating one of the most satisfying dining experiences in New York.

--Thomas Matthews

The St. Regis, 2 E. 55th St., New York, 10022
Telephone (212) 339-6719
Wine selections 1,650
Number of bottles 25,000

For the complete article, please see the Sept. 30, 2000, issue of Wine Spectator magazine, page 71.

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