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

Red Burgundy at the River Café

Vincent Girardin Pommard Les Vignots 2009

Thomas Matthews
Posted: September 18, 2012

Sara and Nancy (my wife and her mother) both have birthdays in September, so we celebrated with dinner at the River Café in Brooklyn. We have been eating there for 20 years, and I can’t think of a better place for a party.

We settled in to a window table as the sun set, the sky turning fiery hues behind the Statue of Liberty and the downtown skyline, as boats churned by along the East River. Truly a spectacular site, in striking counterpoint to the dining room, which despite the luxury of white linens and fine china, feels intimate and comfortable.

The River Café is an exception to the rule that the quality of a restaurant’s food is in inverse proportion to its view. The $100 prix-fixe is not inexpensive, but chef Brad Steelman’s dishes are inventive, harmonious and generous. Nancy ordered rack of Colorado lamb, and Sara and I chose Long Island duck. The wine list is broad and deep, especially in California Cabernet and Bordeaux, but Nancy favors red Burgundy. Sommelier Edmond Polland suggested a 2009 Pommard ($110), and it was a perfect match, the ripeness of the vintage and the amplitude of the appellation giving the Pinot Noir the heft necessary for the lamb, while its innate silkiness and smoky notes nestled nicely with the duck. I rated it 92 points, non-blind.

A chocolate cake arrived with candles, and Polland poured us a taste of Blandy’s 1948 Bual from the restaurant’s amazing selection of Madeira. It was rich, but dry, even bitter, with alluring notes of black chocolate and coffee that made a brilliant contrast with the cake. As the sky deepened and the lights twinkled on the skyline, we couldn’t imagine a finer birthday present.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Vincent Girardin Pommard Les Vignots 2009 (89 points, $40).

Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated red Burgundy.

Sussanah Nolan
Brooklyn, NY —  November 26, 2012 1:10pm ET
Given the recent devastation at the River Cafe, I got misty reading your blog post, remembering all of the lovely birthdays and anniversaries my husband and I have spent there. Here is a wish that many others will get the chance to experience their wonderful food, wine and magical view once they rebuild.

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