I had dinner with some friends at Minetta Tavern last night. According to one of them it’s “the hottest restaurant in New York” right now. Unsurprisingly, it’s a Keith McNally property - an old Italian joint reborn as a trendy McNally boite. McNally of course is the restaurant impressario responsible for Balthazar, Pastis, Morandi, Schiller’s et al.
I actually ate at the original Minetta back in its red sauce days and while I have no memory of the food, I do remember the wine that we drank: Principessa Gavi. Back then, there wasn’t much in the way of prestigious Italian white wine (actually there still isn’t) but Gavi was considered a pretty sophisticated drink. The new Minetta wine list, created by Chris Goodhart (who puts together all the McNally lists) bears no resemblance to Minetta original. (No Gavi) Which I guess is a good thing.
Except that the list is largely directed to those in the know with money to spend. For example, there’s a 2004 Clos Rougeard “Bourg” Samur Champigny for $170 that my friend Glen Vogt, the wine director of Crabtree Kittle House (who was in our group of four) declared “incredible.” Not to mention a 2002 DRC La Tache for a pretty reasonable $1,500 (“infanticide” Glen declared) and a magnum of 1989 Quilceda Creek Cab at $1,200. (“We have some of that at our restaurant,” Glen mused.)
But if you’re in the market (as I usually am) for a wine around $50, the pickings are considerably slimmer. A red wine from Corsica? A basic 2007 Bourgogne? A Central Coast Grenache? None appealed. I went with a 2006 “Cuvee de la Tour Sarrazine” Gigondas from Le Clos de Cazaux ($60). This Grenache-dominant blend was delicious – perfectly balanced, lovely ripe fruit, brilliant acidity. “This is a wine that’s hard not to keep drinking,” Glen said.
But when it was time for a second bottle (Glen was right) we couldn’t find anything as interesting in the same price range. We’d have to step up another $20 or $30 for a second wine that was on par with the first. Why is this so often the case? Why can’t there be several wines of similar quality and interest in the same price range? But it was no time for rhetorical questions- there was still half of the (terrific) Black Label burger left. Defeated and thirsty, we committed what I suppose is considered a sin among adventurous wine drinkers: we ordered a second bottle of the Gigondas.