Champagne Shopping Binge

"The champagne shopping binge/ is over/ The check is about to arrive/ and nobody knows how much it will be/ I know I don't give a shit not now" -From "FROM A DISCARDED IMAGE" by Franz Wright

Monday, November 01, 2004

mmm... wine...

OK, so I’ll admit it – sometimes I am a restaurant snob. I tend to believe that restaurants in NY are far superior to restaurants anywhere else in the country (except maybe obscure California towns where they can grow their own produce) and that it is only acceptable to eat at chain restaurants when you are in the suburbs (and hence it is not acceptable to live in said suburbs). I take Jean Georges more seriously than Steve Hanson, and shudder if someone orders a steak well done. I take pride in knowing the restaurant scene, but not frequenting places that are more scene than restaurant.

Which is why I had yet to set foot in Suba. Sure, I read about it when it first opened with such a publicity extravaganza, and I knew the common perception – great space, OK food, but far more style than substance, all at exorbitant prices. LZ went there for a vendor dinner and almost fell in the moat after too many cocktails. All flash and no substance - not my type of place (at least not when I am paying for it).

But Suba’s “Spanish Wine and Tapas” classes have at least partially changed my mind.

J and I went last Thurs night and had a grand old time. Tasted 6 wines and 5 tapas over the course of several hours. (As a side note, this may be the best value in Manhattan. $75 for all 4 classes. Two of the wines retailed for $65 each, which works out to about $22 per glass in a restaurant. And they were very generous tastings…)

The class focused on the Basque region of Spain. The first was a white – Itsas Mendis - a Txakolni Viscaya. It was very mineral-ly and didn’t have a whole lot of depth, but certainly plesant enough. Next up was a Txakolina Getariako. I thought this one was much better – more complex, fruitier, with a bit of fizz. Apparently in Spain it is served in thimbles like shots of tequila. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience this local tradition…

We then switched to Riojas. First up was a 2001 Lanzaga. This wine was fresh and lively, with a distinct mineral taste. Had a soft, oaky finish. Nothing spectacular, but very sip-able. Next came a 2000 Remelluri. The grapes are grown up in the mountains, which apparently leads to a thicker skin and more tannins. This wine was very smooth and had more body. Aged in French oak, it was described as an “old-style Rioja.”

This is about the point where my notes start to get a little sloppy…

The third Rioja was a 2001 Altos de Lanzaga. (Note: 2001 was apparently a very good year for Spanish wines.) This wine is aged for 18 months in French oak to produce a subtle, soft flavor. This is the wine that revealed how sadly unsophisticated my palate is. I knew it was a good wine. I could taste that it was good, that it was much better than anything we had previously tasted. But, while I could appreciate it, I just did not love it. I think I just like young wines. Sigh. Maybe with time????

The last one gave me some hope that perhaps, one day, I will be able to develop a sophisticated taste in wine. Remirez de Ganuza Reserva 2000. Retails for $65 a bottle, so I won’t be having that puppy again any time soon, but it was fantastic. In the words of our teacher, it had “broad shoulders and a long tail.” In the words of our other teacher, it was “friggin amazing.”

Tapas included a white bean bruschetta, cod with a peppery sauce, and scallops and horseradish on toast. All quite good. The only low point was the oxtail and foie gras, but I think that may be because this unsophisticated palate simply cannot handle either of the main ingredients…

After, J and I met up with her new squeeze at ‘inoteca. I have wanted to try it for ages, and now can only kick myself for not going sooner. Fabulous place. No attitude. They didn’t care that we weren’t eating and only wanted drinks. They didn’t care that we went from a table of two to a table of three to a table of four. Stephen, the (very hunky) wine guy recommended a terrific 2000 Barbaresco. Good times all around, and I will certainly be back…

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