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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

A White at the Oasis of Le Cirque

Philippe Colin St.-Aubin Le Charmois 2007

Thomas Matthews
Posted: November 30, 2010

You don’t really think of a circus as an oasis, but I found an island of peace and sustenance when I dropped into Manhattan’s Le Cirque for dinner recently.

The lovely room was just filling up at 8 p.m., with an older, well-dressed crowd. Greetings were offered by various members of the Maccioni family, who have owned the restaurant since it opened, three locations ago, in 1974. If you are comfortable with luxury, the padded chairs, well-spaced tables and heavy linens all amplified their welcome.

I ordered a couple of appetizers. A rustic, savory terrine of rabbit and foie gras was bookended by a sharp, grainy mustard and a fresh, bright apple gelée ($32). Australian king prawns, tender and sweet, came with curried spaghetti squash and a foam enlivened by ginger and lime, the flavors complex but balanced ($26). Not inexpensive, admittedly, but a four-course “seasonal” menu seemed fairly priced at $88.

Both dishes paired nicely, though in different ways (one a complement, the other a contrast) with a round, dense white Burgundy, a St. Aubin from Philippe Colin that offered good value, at $66 on the extensive list. I rated it 89 points, non-blind.

Paging through the list, I dreamed over a 1959 Lafite-Rothschild ($2,505) and a 1921 Yquem ($9,810). They seemed the kind of wines that people who eat here regularly might order, and I have to admit I envied them a little. The way I see it, Le Cirque is the kind of place you might mock, as an outsider, until you felt at home there. And then you would probably cherish it, because the Maccionis and their team truly know how to make their guests feel like family. New York needs all kinds of restaurants, including—especially—oases like this.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Philippe Colin St.-Aubin Le Charmois 2007 (88, $33).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated white Burgundies.

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