Magazine article Sunset

The Myth of Wine Lists

Magazine article Sunset

The Myth of Wine Lists

Article excerpt

Restaurants can offer bargain discoveries

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.

The winners are the behemoth wineries, which carry weight with their volume-the names that bring on déjà 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 potatocrusted 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 !fork 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-ofvintage deal making, and just plain chutzpah. …

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