Ellenville's Number 1 Trip Advisor Restaurant!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good Value Restaurant Wines

Here is great article from the NY Times. We all love the big bold pricey wines. But how often can we all afford those wines when we go out. I have always said the less known value choices on a wine list are the most impressive. I think of a restaurant value wine for less than $30. Aroma Thyme Bistro has lots of wine that fall into that category.
To find wines like this it takes work. We always go tastings to find the low production value wines. We never want to buy what the big wine vendors are pushing to everyone. There is no fun getting a wine at a restaurant and then seeing the same wine floor stacked at the wine shop.
At Aroma Thyme we feel you should never drink the same wine twice. Wine should be a new experience every time. That's why we out tons of passion into the Aroma Thyme wine list. Yes we have our standard wines that will never part with. But the fun is in all the new wines that we get to taste and share with our guests.
And don't get us wrong we have the expensive wines too, and we will never say no to you buying Barolo, Brunello, big Juicy California Cab or elegant Pinot Noir!!!!!

December 10, 2008
The Pour

Worthwhile Bottles at the Bottom of the List

FORGET about hard times. With so many sharp reminders all around, I know that isn’t easy, but what I want to say is true regardless of the state of the economy.
Far too often, restaurant wine lists are judged from the top down. Many wine lists that are widely considered to be great are practically keeling over with luxurious selections of the world’s great wines. The best are replete with copious older vintages as well. These bottles can cost thousands of dollars each and are no doubt wonderful treats for those who can afford them.
But what about the rest of us? Most people, even in the best of times, can no more afford these grand cru Burgundies, 20-year-old Barolos and first-growth Bordeaux than they can seats on a private jet. While wine lists like these can nourish a rich fantasy life, they mean little to the workaday reality that most wine lovers inhabit.
A wine list requires a reverse-angle analysis. It should be judged not from the top down but from the bottom up. It should offer thoughtful and possibly even exciting choices at every level. At the very least a good list needs to give bottom dwellers something to grab hold of and enjoy, that will make them feel welcomed, not just tolerated.
Lower-priced bottles signify the nature and identity of a restaurant as surely as the top of the list. No matter how good the food, budget-conscious wine lovers will take generic low-end choices as a sign of a mediocre restaurant. Conversely, while an imaginative list at all price ranges will not excuse culinary sinning, it may well earn the benefit of the doubt.
Good sommeliers understand this and will take as much if not more pride in their budget choices as in the higher end. They know that the more expensive precincts of the list must be filled dutifully, but the lower end is their opportunity for personal expression.
At Spigolo, for example, a good neighborhood trattoria on the Upper East Side, the whites are mostly about $30 to $60, and the reds $35 to $100, with a handful above that for the big spenders. This is about right for a restaurant that is not cheap, but is reasonably priced by current standards.
At a recent dinner I decided to order from the very bottom of the list. This is not always where the best values reside, but at Spigolo the choices were certainly decent. For a white, I ordered a Tuscan vermentino, a crisp and refreshing 2007 Casamatta from Bibi Graetz, a wine that if not exciting went perfectly with antipasti like baby octopus with preserved lemon and fennel. It would be hard to do better for $24.
For the red, I paid $21 for a 2007 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Pasqua, a lively wine with flavors of fruit and earth that was just right with the gutsy cuisine. It was not a wine for contemplation, but it was gratifying nonetheless.
Should I have expected more than gusto from the bottom end of the list? Well, on most wine lists you can expect to pay roughly two to two-and-a-half times the retail price of a wine. So for these prices I was buying bottles that cost about $10 in a wine shop. When I think of the oceans of dull, generic wine available at that price — and sold in restaurants for twice that or more — cherchez le gusto!
Like those wines, the ones on Spigolo’s list are satisfying, but not inspiring. I found more excitement in SoHo, at Blue Ribbon, the venerable chef’s hangout that seems packed at all hours. I could have had a decent but routine Rheingau riesling for $30 on this list, but for $10 or $15 more the values seemed better. A 2007 Kremser Freiheit grüner veltliner from Nigl, one of the better Austrian producers, was $42. It was served too cold, but as it warmed up its juicy, icy minerality began to shine through. For the red, a 2002 Chinon Picasses from Olga Raffault, overflowing with cherry and herbal flavors, was a great choice at $44.
Good low-end choices were easier among the whites than the reds, which had a heavy proportion of wines well above $100. This may reflect the usual SoHo clientele, but at least I found a comfortable refuge.
An eclectic menu like Blue Ribbon’s offers an opportunity for creative cherry-picking around the wine world in a way that is not available to typical French or Italian restaurants, which express their regionality through their wines. Blue Ribbon does not take full advantage of this freedom, but Fatty Crab in the West Village, with a menu inspired by southeast Asian street food, does an exceptional job with this.
I’ve mentioned Fatty Crab’s wine list before, and it continues to be a shining example of an imaginative list of wines that pair beautifully with a cuisine assumed to be unfriendly toward wine, with great choices in the $30 to $60 range.
Fatty Crab is a casual place. What about some fancier, more expensive restaurants? Thalassa in TriBeCa, a Greek restaurant where ultrafresh fish sold by the pound can get diabolically expensive, has a wine list to match. You can spend hundreds on white Burgundies, which is fine if your limo is idling outside, and yes, you can order a vertical of first-growth Bordeaux if so inclined.
But on a recent visit, with oysters and a grilled dorade royale, I had a 2006 Santorini assyrtiko, from Spyros Hatziyiannis, for $44, and I could not have been happier. The assyrtiko grape can produce wines with intense mineral flavors, and this wine, with a slight touch of sweetness, was delicious. (By the way, the fish cost more than the wine.)
Danny Meyer’s restaurants have always done a good job at all ends of the wine list. Recently at Union Square Cafe I had a 2007 Soave Classico from Prà for $40, not the cheapest white on the menu but rewardingly Chablis-like in its austerity. We splurged on a $55 bottle of Chianti Classico riserva from Castello di Cacchiano. Like the Soave, it wasn’t the cheapest choice, but with its classic dusty dried cherry flavors it might have been the best deal.
Even the budget-oriented get ambitious. Wine lovers of every income would love a pilgrimage to a restaurant like Cru, which offers one of the world’s great wine lists, or should I say two, since upon sitting down you are presented with one leather-bound volume for whites and another for reds.
Predictably, one can spend hundreds — no, thousands — of dollars on legendary bottles. If you’ve always wanted to experience Henri Jayer’s 1985 Cros Parantoux, Cru offers it for $5,500. In a just universe, we all would have our chance, but what can one have when reality sets in?
At Cru, one can still have a memorable wine experience. At a recent dinner there I set a limit of $95 a bottle. By any reckoning that is expensive. But there are times when one can’t stint, particularly when an experience is available that can be duplicated in very few other places.
I could have spent a lot less. Cru has a 2004 Bourgogne blanc from Roulot, a terrific producer, for $50. It’s a lovely wine, but I don’t need to go to Cru for that. For $95, though, I got a 2001 smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein from Prager, an Austrian riesling that is as brilliant to drink as it is difficult to say. It was richly textured yet taut and spring-coiled, with generous honeysuckle aromas yet as minerally as a mouthful of rocks. Did I say brilliant?
For the red, I could have spent $50 on a 2005 Oregon pinot noir from Patricia Green. A good wine, but again, not the stuff of which a pilgrimage is made. For $45 I could have had a 2000 Houillon Pupillin from the Arbois, a wine that I adore. But frankly, I have this bottle at home. No, I spent $85 for a bottle I had never seen before, a 2000 red Bourgogne from Jean-François Coche-Dury, a producer known worldwide for magnificent white Burgundies, but whose reds are little-known. I’d had his 2004 Volnay premier cru, though, and knew how good his reds could be.
This wine was ethereal, wonderfully floral, delicate and pure. For good measure we added a 2000 Volnay from Michel Lafarge for $90, one of my favorite Volnay producers, and it was a gorgeous contrast, earthy and sensuous.
Not cheap wines by any means. But unmatchable values, unforgettable at any price.

No comments:

We would never expect you to eat this shrimp, nor do we serve farmed Asian shrimp

One Awesome Blender