Rennert has ambitious plans for Aquavit. Previously, he has done stints at two winners of Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, which honors exceptional restaurant wine lists. At Aquavit, "I'm inheriting a one-star list for a three-star restaurant," said Rennert, who was the cellar master at March in New York and the wine director at The Frog and the Peach in New Brunswick, N.J. "We need to bring the beverage program up to speed to catch up with the food."
Already, Rennert has reorganized and condensed Aquavit's 220-wine list, putting the bottlings under the headings of varietals instead of regions. He is also creating a reserve list and a private-function wine list with a substantial offering of large-format bottles. He plans to cut back further on Bordeaux and California Cabernets and expand the restaurant's Alsace, Austrian and German offerings.
"We're starting to think in terms of what's going to go best with Marcus' food," he said. Rennert prefers contrasting wines with high acidity and spicy or smoky notes, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliners from Austria and Gewurztraminer. "It's not just for Chinese food," he quips. "It matches well with Scandinavian offerings."
On the red side, he's focusing on lighter-style wines, including Pinot Noir from Burgundy and Oregon. Surprisingly, he also finds that spicy Zinfandels, though they are heavy-bodied, match up nicely.
But Rennert's beverage program isn't all about wine. While he and Samuelsson will be using the tasting menus to show customers the wines that best enhance Aquavit's food, they will also match the dishes with tea, homemade ginger ales, traditional glogg and, of course, a flight of aquavits.
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