April 15, 2004

A good wine list

If I ran the world, wine lists at all restaurants would meet these standards:

  1. A selection of wines that start at roughly 1.5 X the average entree in price.
  2. A large selection in the 2.0-3.0 X average entree price range.
  3. A few more expensive selections that are great values and finds, which might, but rarely do, tempt me to splurge.
  4. Every wine would have at least one of the following qualities: great value, unknown but should be discovered, local producers (as in from the 20 closest producers).
  5. At least 6 wines by the glass (usually the best values from 3 whites and 3 reds)
  6. And, of course, all the usual stuff, all of the wines should go well with the food served, be indicative of their grape, producer, region, or something memorable, and in general, just good.

Unfortunately, I don't run the world. This means that most restaurants make wine lists based on a desire to make the largest profit they can, with the second goal of getting people to spend as much money on wine as possible. Usually, the cheaper wines on the list end up being mass-produced stuff I buy at the grocery store for $6-$10, but the restaurant is charging $20-$25 for it. The middle of the road for the price range in these restaurants is usually closer to 3-5 X the average entree price, and even then, the majority of the offerings are well-known stars of the wine world, which are overpriced due to their acclaim. This is before the standard restaurant markup of 100-300%.

Last night, E and I went out to a different local Italian joint than where we usually go. The wine list followed my school of thought, which was pleasantly surprising. There were several excellent values and good, but unknown local selections. So, I chose a reasonably priced Napa Pinot Noir of which I'd never heard. E and I were in heaven.

Finding a wine list that I'd make if I had the time, money and restaurant to host it in was the best thing that's happened all week. But enjoying an affordable wine discovery with a white-wine-saffron-seafood fettuccini and a much-needed date with E sealed the deal.

So, if you get a chance, give Fleur de Carneros a try. I have no idea if they carry it in stores, but even with the restaurant markup it's a good value. However, if you do find it in the store, splurge away--at $14 a bottle, the cheery, light, and delicious wine with the french-style label is a serious bargain (some of the winery's neighbors charge double or even triple that for wines of roughly the same quality).

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