Very interesting wine ordering experience during the last dinner at The Capital Grille in Paramus, New Jersey. The Capital Grille restaurant itself needs no introduction, of course – whether you like steak or not, every visit there is a dining experience (you can find my previous excited post here). I have to also acknowledge that part of our great experience during this visit was our waiter, Andre – his service was absolutely impeccable.
Ok, so let’s talk about ordering wine. Wine List at the Capital Grille is quite extensive, plus I’m very particular when it comes to wine ( who would’ve thought?) – and one of the things I’m always looking for for is QPR – I want to find the bottle which will taste good, and will have reasonable cost (have a real problem with paying triple-retail in a restaurant). So after 10 minutes of intense reading I finally decided on Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – I like the wine very much (you can find one of the previous posts here), besides, at $58 it is less than double retail – makes me very happy. So I ask for the bottle of Ladera 2006, Andre comes back in a few minutes to inform us that they out of Ladera 2006. He start offering 2007 Cabernets – and of course, 2007 Napa valley Cabernets are lauded all over wine press, however, my experience with 2007s is less than stellar – a lot of them simply not ready yet (do I dare to say that they might be just not?). So I refuse his advice, and ask for Central Otago Pinot Noir, Amisfield 2006 – it is outside of QPR comfort zone at $69, but at least I know it is a good wine. Andrea comes back to inform us that they are out of that wine as well. No problems, I was almost ready for that (a bit surprising – two out), so my next choice was Ernesto Catena Locura 2006 blend from Argentina – I didn’t have that before, but at about $55 it was an interesting wine to try. Well, time to ask questions. Do you think we got that wine?
This time Andrea didn’t even show up. Instead, we were approached by the Sommelier (unfortunately we didn’t catch her name) with the bottle of Ladera 2007 in her hand. So we manage to ask for 3 wines from the wine list, which were not available! Of course it happens that the restaurant doesn’t have the wine you ask for, but 3 of them? Wow, we were impressed with our wine picking ability.
Anyway, after Sommelier assured us that she tried that Ladera 2007 and liked it very much, and moreover, if we don’t like the wine we can send it back – we decided to give a try. Oh boy, that happened to be a very good decision, as the wine was beautiful. Soft layered black and red fruit, just right amount of silky tannins, all perfectly balanced with acidity – that was a perfect wine for our dinner, and I would highly recommend this wine to anyone – it is ready to drink now, but as they say, the California Cabernet need about 13 years to shine – it will be interesting to put a few bottles in the cellar and enjoy them later.
So I’m glad to say that this story has a happy end (sometimes restaurant experience can be quite different). Also, if I can give you an advice, for the actual happy ending of the dinner (meaning: desert), try the Cheesecake – it is literally the heaven on earth, and I have to commend Andre for his recommendation – it is the best desert in the house. Until the next time – wishing you all great restaurant experience. Cheers!
In order to drink wine (better: drink GOOD wine), we all have to get it somewhere. Outside of getting the wine as a present, “get wine” equals “buy wine”. There are few ways to go about buying wine. You can do it at the winery – often works well, you can try before you buy and get information. Then of course you can buy it online – this is most difficult method, as you have to know precisely what you are doing, wine can be damaged during shipping (I don’t mean broken bottle, think about summer heat, for instance). And the simplest way – buy the wine at the good local wine store. Well, it is simplest if you happened to know where this good local wine store is.
I want to bring to your attention my favorite wine store in Stamford – Cost Less Wines & Liquors (1073 High Ridge Road, (203) 329-2900), the good wine store. What am I looking for in a wine store? Yes, of course wine, but this is not the point. In no particular order, but good prices, selection, service, knowledgeable staff and overall store organization are all very important for the good wine store. Lets talk about these elements.
Store organization: Cost Less is easy to navigate. All the wines are grouped into the regions with easy access, with sparkling wines and kosher wines located in the separate sections. Beer and all different types of liquors (Scotch, whiskey, cognac and so on) located along the wall:
Great Selection: Store offers great selection in every section. Despite the limited size (store is not huge), all wine making regions are well represented – California, Washington, Oregon, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Israel (I’m sure I forgot something) – and all sections are well stocked. There is a lot of interesting wines on the shelves, such as Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon (96 points from Wine Spectator, and don’t forget to look at the price):
Another point on the subject of great selection is Growers Champagne. Demand for Growers Champagne is quite recent phenomena, so very few store carry them. Here is a brief description from Wikipedia: “While large Champagne houses, such as Mumm, may use grapes sourced from as many as 80 different vineyards, Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir focused, being sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village.” Cost Less got great selection already, and probably will offer even more in the future (if you had not tried one yet, I highly recommend that you will try it rather sooner than later):
Great selection of beers, with a lot of quite unique offerings (you can see one of my previous posts on this subject – all beers came from Cost Less). Excellent selection of cognac, tequila and vodka, and amazing selection of scotch, including some very unique offerings (note to self – not to use “unique offerings” repeatedly… but what should I do if I think they are?):
If I may, I would like to mention that Rosebank distillery is closed, so I don’t think there are too many bottles left as the one shown above. And if you take a look at the prices (30 years old single malt for $220 – WOW) that brings us to the next characteristic of a great store – good prices.
Good prices: as you can already see from the pictures, there are great prices all over the store. All the wines and liquors are well priced, compare to any other wine store in Stamford and around. There is also 10% discount on the mixed case purchases (as long as the wine is not sold at the minimum state price). On this subject, I must bring to your attention one of my favorite California Cabernet wines, Ladera:
Service and knowledgeable staff: you got it all. Store owner, Zak, is always available to answer questions, recommend wine or simply stand aside and let you browse through the selection without any pressure – I think this is the great talent ( I really don’t like being attacked in the store as you walk in – that never happens at Cost Less). If the wine you are looking for is not available in the store all you need to do is to ask Zak to get it for you – it is that easy.
And to add one more point: if you reading my blog, you know how much I value opportunity to “experience” things. Along these lines, every Friday and Saturday, there is wine tasting at the store, where you can experience great wines, such as, for instance, Charles Mara or Duckhorn:
With the holidays coming, and wine being definitely important part of any celebration – head on to the Cost Less, you will not regret you did (hmmm, sounds like an advertisement, and I really didn’t mean it… or may be I did, just a little bit). Ahh, and don’t forget that Beaujolais nouveau will be released on Thursday (November 18, 2010) – who knows, I might run into you at Zak’s…
So far I had being talking about wine and food in this blog. As this blog’s short description puts it, it is about “Wine, food and life”. Of course food and wine are definitely part of our daily lives, so the blog’s promise on “life” is fulfilled, more or less by itself. However, after I read a very interesting article sent to me by Kfir Pravda, it really stroke the chord, so here comes the blog post. A life prospective through the glass, if you will.
The article is called “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right” (I really encourage everyone reading this blog to read the article – it definitely worth it). Money? Don’t worry – this blog is not changing into a financial publication. I don’t plan to give any financial advice, and I don’t know where the money tree is growing (if you know – can you please, please share with the rest of us?). The article itself is not talking about money or finances, it rather talks about happiness, and then looks at money as one of the popular means of achieving it (or not). Still don’t see a connection, with wine or with life? Just continue reading, please.
One of the first points of the article is “Buy experiences instead of things”. There is a great explanation on why it makes a lot of sense from point of view of achieving “happy” state and keeping it for longer. That concerns pretty much anything in life (two weeks trip through French country side will probably keep you happy much longer than having one tiny original French painting on your wall). Now, I hope you expect me to connect this to the wine. Quick question – can you experience Chateaux Margaux 2000 ($1000/bottle, try to find it), Vega Sicilia Unico 1968 ( about $1200/bottle, again good luck finding it), Krug Vintage 1996 ($300+, same good luck wish applies) and about hundred other wines, all without emptying your 401K ( like it’s not empty already)? If you said “yes”, you are correct. PJ Wine Grand Tasting in New York in the Fall of 2009 had all of those ( and many more) wines available for all the wine lovers. Ticket price – $144 per person. Paraphrasing MasterCard commercials, having long-lasting memory of tasting freshly made bread in the Krug or tremendous luscious layers of complexity in Chateaux Margaux – priceless. Yes, it is great to have that special bottle of wine in your own cellar. Considering realities of life and cost of college education ( sorry, personal pain point), it is not easy to have all the wines you want in the cellar – however, you can always find a solution. Going after experience can bring a lot more long-lasting happiness, especially comparing with owning THAT bottle of wine and having regrets about money spent as the main feeling every time you think about it. Or at least that what I think – and I would love to hear your opinion.
Another key point of the article, “Buy many small pleasures instead of few big ones” also can be perfectly illustrated in the wine world. What would you rather have in your cellar? One bottle of Joseph Phelps Insignia 2006 at about $160 to $200, or 4-5 bottles of Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 at about $40? I chose the pair for the simple reason – tasted both a week ago, and with all due respect to Insignia, having more bottles of Ladera Cabernet will provide for quite a bit more happy occasions. But when it comes to wine, this is definitely a very important point – there is a lot of choices, and you can use your money wisely and “stretch the happiness” quite a bit simply by finding the right value wines which will bring you a lot of pleasure and happy memories.
Last point from the article I want to touch on is stated as “Pay now and consume later”. The point is simple. When you own things which you can enjoy later, you get a lot of happy feelings all the way until you actually get to use whatever it is. Who can attest to this better than wine lover, whether you own a cellar or keep your wines in the closet? I’m not talking about collectible wines here, this is a category in its own. I’m talking about putting your wines aside and waiting for them to improve, or waiting for just the right moment to drink them. Just a thought about having particular wine in the future gives you a lot of pleasure, isn’t it? This is all which we are trying to achieve – to be in the happy state for longer, and I would say that wine lovers are the ultimate group which has almost an unfair advantage here – we can wait and be happy about it at the same time. I’m not sure that buying the new car and waiting for 3-4 years to drive it will put someone in the happy state of mind – but buying the few bottles of wine and giving it time to evolve is definitely great and pleasant experience.
As a conclusion, again, I would definitely encourage everyone to read the article – it really provides great analysis of our “state of happiness” and suggests a few tricks for achieving it. And while you will be reading this article, have a glass of wine – and experience happiness at the fullest. Cheers!