Magazine article Sunset

The Myth of Wine Lists: Restaurants Can Offer Bargain Discoveries

Magazine article Sunset

The Myth of Wine Lists: Restaurants Can Offer Bargain Discoveries

Article excerpt

Not all wine lists are created equal. Some aren't created at all, in fact; the wines on them are more or less distributed. By that I mean more than a few restaurateurs know heaps about food but only a pittance about wine. They put themselves in the hands of a large distributor or two to compile their wine list--with all the business agendas you can imagine in that scenario.

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The winners are the behemoth wineries, which carry weight with their volume--the names that bring on deja vu when you pick up the list in a new bistro. Of course, big doesn't mean bad. And meeting old friends in new places makes you feel safe. But is that what you want on a Friday night, in a buzzing restaurant, with a plate of potato-crusted scallops on wild greens in front of you? With the plethora of wines around us in the West, we can do better than safe.

An A-list

The least familiar-sounding wine list I've come across recently is at seven-month-old Myth in San Francisco. Partner Marc Cohen, a New York doctor turned Napa vintner, had the preposterous-sounding goal from the beginning of offering "wines you can't find anywhere else in the world," at a markup 20 to 30 percent less than other restaurants. He brought in wine director Alex Fox (formerly wine educator at Niebaum-Coppola winery) to help pull off such a collection. It took serious legwork--months, if not years, of off-site tasting duty--plus connections, end-of-vintage deal making, and just plain chutzpah. …

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