Log In / Join Now

Read This And Dinner on Me

Posted: Jan 10, 2008 4:44pm ET

“That’s the last bottle,” said the owner of the restaurant.

Those words are like great rock n’ roll to my ears, when I score a great bottle for a great price in a restaurant. It’s happened many times in my career. Sometimes it is true. The bottle was their last in the cellar, but other times it’s the restaurant owner realizing that he or she is selling the wine for too little. So they are covering their you-know-what.

It happened the other night in a restaurant, which I will not name. But I scored a bottle of 1979 Haut-Brion – yes, HB, the first-growth bomb – for $265 a bottle. When I saw it on the list, I nearly fell out of the booth. We also had a 1999 Comte George de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny for $125 a bottle.

There’s nothing better than finding a great bottle for a great price on a wine list. I just looked on Wine Searcher, and the 1979 Haut-Brion is $425 at Zachy’s wine shop in New York. I didn't find the Chambolle at retail, but our Auction Price Database lists it as selling at auction in fourth-quarter 2007 for an average of $101, so $125 at a restaurant is a good price.

The Haut-Brion 1979 is an old favorite. I hadn’t had it in years. I was worried that it might be losing it a bit. But it was beautiful with subtle aromas of crushed berries, minerals and cedar. The palate was delicate with subtle fruit and super silky, refined tannins. What a texture. 92 points, non-blind. The Chambolle was very tight still, with firm tannins, yet it was refined and silky with pretty, plummy, raspberry fruit character. It was just a baby still. 90 points, non-blind.

Check out my video. If you have been following my blog, you should know where I have been recently.

I'm not going to tell you where I found the wines, because I don’t want everyone to go and clean the restaurant out of their well-priced bottles. It’s like knowing where the perfect waves are, but you don’t want to tell anyone because you want them all to yourself! But the first one to guess where I ate and drank so well gets dinner with me – on me. So hurry up with your guesses!

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 10, 2008 7:50pm ET
Holger Besch
los angeles —  January 10, 2008 8:13pm ET
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Rancho Mirage, Calif?
James Suckling
 —  January 10, 2008 8:35pm ET
Troy. So are you saying that Cicada has great wines at such great prices. Where is it? I want to go...
Lisa Dornbach
Walnut Creek, CA —  January 10, 2008 10:19pm ET
osteria mozza?
Jonathon Wagner
San Francisco, CA —  January 10, 2008 10:36pm ET
Peter Hucal
Victoria, BC —  January 10, 2008 11:16pm ET
Is it Comme Ca in LA?
Claude Pope
Raleigh, NC —  January 10, 2008 11:28pm ET
Well, it's not Smithfield's Barbeque in Newton Grove NC!
Michael Tracy
trabuco canyon CA —  January 11, 2008 12:00am ET
Bistro Le Crillon
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 11, 2008 1:15am ET
Well James, I guess that means I don't win the prize! I must admit I haven't yet been to Cicada but heard some good buzz a while back. So many places, so little time... Check it out at http://www.cicadarestaurant.com/index.php. Some reviews are at http://losangeles.citysearch.com/review/23392
Gil Schwarz
Las —  January 11, 2008 1:21am ET
It is not Comme Ca or Sona, because the "owner" in the video does not look like David. It's also not Mozza, because it does not look like Nancy either... Fleming's is a huge Chain so that's out. Anyway, I know the place but will disqualify myself and have a dinner in Vegas instead; get on over here James! Gots me some more great wines...
Guus Hateboer
January 11, 2008 3:28am ET
It's Craft.
Guus Hateboer
January 11, 2008 3:34am ET
Craft in L.A., not N.Y.
Eric Swanson
Westlake —  January 11, 2008 8:17am ET
J Ryan Kahle
Arlington, VA —  January 11, 2008 10:04am ET
James Suckling
 —  January 11, 2008 11:32am ET
No one is right yet. But most are in the right part of the world....
Gordon Trachtenberg
Beverly Hills, CA —  January 11, 2008 11:57am ET
Melrose Bar & Grill?
James Suckling
 —  January 11, 2008 12:03pm ET
Gordon. Nice one. You free for dinner next week?
Andrew Wurster
January 11, 2008 2:15pm ET
I was gonna say Melrose Bar & Grill. Really I was. What do you get for second place? Doh!
Katherine Brown
North Carolina —  January 11, 2008 3:03pm ET
Gee James, when ARE you coming to North Carolina?
Guus Hateboer
Netherlands —  January 11, 2008 4:08pm ET
Then it must be Blue Velvet.
costa mesa, ca —  January 11, 2008 4:46pm ET
I'm waiting for the orange county version of this challenge...
John Osgood
New York, NY —  January 11, 2008 5:06pm ET
James - how did you decide upon this place for dinner in LA?
Steve Lenzo
PHX, AZ —  January 11, 2008 5:29pm ET
I knew it...........Who do I have to talk to at WS to file my complaint. The link to Doug Arango's on the WS website was not working last night, which coincidentally was the former name of this establishment and now links to the melrose website today. So much for the 6 hours clicking thru websites to look for this place.

Did you tell the WS folks to unplug this link James to make the job harder for us all???
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 11, 2008 6:14pm ET
Crap! Oh well, at least James gave those of us in the blog the scoop on this LA eatery. Time to check it out!
James Suckling
 —  January 11, 2008 6:21pm ET
John: I used to know Doug Arango's in Palm Desert where my mother and grandmother lives. Then they moved to Melrose West Hollywood. And they recently changed the name to Melrose Bar & Grill. Anyway, I went with some friends because the restaurant always had a good wine list with good prices. And they have good ribs. Just relaxed and simple food. I had my flip video at dinner and I thought of doing this blog. Spontaneous decision with the help of some good wine...
James Suckling
 —  January 11, 2008 6:23pm ET
Gordon. I wasn't joking. You and I are having dinner, and I am going to blog about the experience! I've got your e-mail, if you can just confirm that the one you registered with is the best way to reach you.
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  January 11, 2008 6:31pm ET

I hope you're joking...James didn't even tell the web staff what the restaurant was! We had to wait to find out like everyone else.

We don't have any control over whether the restaurant's website was working when you hit it or when they set up a redirect from the old URL to their new site. That is an odd coincidence. But, please, don't give James any ideas--we're busy enough here without going about disabling and re-enabling individual links just to stump you!

Dana Nigro
managing editor, WineSpectator.com
Steve Lenzo
PHX, AZ —  January 11, 2008 8:57pm ET

Of course I was joking. But it is ironic how I kept kept trying to get to that site till 2 am last night and I kept getting "server not found". I must have looked at over 100 resturant sites last night. This was not an easy task for non-LA folks. I did learn about alot of great restaurants though.

Congrats to Gordon.
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  January 11, 2008 9:20pm ET
Steve, that is really weird and unfortunate. Wow, 2 a.m.--that's dedication! I and the other editors here will count ourselves lucky that we don't have to go to such lengths to have dinner with James when he's visiting the NYC office.

Dana Nigro, managing editor, WineSpectator.com
James Suckling
 —  January 11, 2008 9:37pm ET
I am considering taking Gordon to Vertical as the prize! See my last blog...
Claude Pope
Raleigh, NC —  January 11, 2008 11:18pm ET
Well James - not to dish Smithfields Barbeque, but if you ever do make it to NC, then you must visit the Angus Barn. They're one of the original Grand Award Winners. Great cellar, great food, and great southern hospitality. (www.angusbarn.com). I don't know where Katherine lives (see above post) but I'm sure that she'll be delighted to co-host your visit with me. I'll bring a '61 and '66 Lafite just in case their list is a little thin for your taste. I'm sure that Katherine has some gems of her own too!
B Vedaa
January 12, 2008 11:18am ET
James,Taking Gordon to Vertical will only give Vertical a chance to redeem themselves; nothing more. A great experience perhaps? You've had that at many other places. It is enough for James Suckling to acknowledge their apology, and then add that everyone deserves a second chance. You did not need to post this, but you're a better person than that and so you did. That's huge! You don't need to go back there to give them a second chance, because you just did. They will now strive to be better. A second visit to this place will be anti-climactic: wine stored at the right temperature, dinner will be great, service will be through the roof, et cetera. I can already sense what that blog will be like. Vertical had their chance to have you as their guest, they apologized, and their notoriety in this case has now given them more publicity which, contrary to what some people think, will help increase their business. If you really want to go back, let time pass and show up when they aren't expecting you. For now, I say, move on, gain a new experience and take Gordon to a new place. Passionately,Jennifer
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  January 13, 2008 10:06am ET
Hey James when do you barrel taste the 2007 Bordeaux?? Oh, and if you have any more "off" bottles at Vertical give me a call. I'm really good at judging wine over the phone as well!
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  January 13, 2008 6:59pm ET
Come to L'Opera (Long Beach) - my last week before I take a month off studying for the Master Sommelier Examinations. I'm sure you might find something of interest to taste...www.lopera.com - I just reposted my wine list on the website - it should be up in the next few days. (66 pages of tasty treats) and chef's tasting menu on Thursday nights to boot.
January 14, 2008 1:03pm ET
Gunther Pointner
New York —  January 14, 2008 6:40pm ET
La Toque - Napa Valley?
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  January 14, 2008 10:04pm ET
Good to meet you today Gordon. Congratulations on winning "the dinner". I'm sure wherever you go on Thursday will be excellent. I hope you liked the Donnhoff "Oberhauser Leistenberg" Riesling 2006. I've been a fan of Donnhoff, Diel, and Emrich from the Nahe for quite some time. If you are coming in, perhaps I can open something early for you...All the best, Chris

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.