My Local Wine Picks

By Matthew DeBord

Huntington has come a long way, baby, as a wine town. Believe me, when I was a young man of legal drinking age returning home from New York City for periodic visits, there wasn’t much to choose from, wine-wise, on the early 1990s wine lists of the restaurants in our fair metropolis.

But wine culture all across the U.S. has advanced by leaps and bounds in the years since then, and Huntington’s fine dining establishments have most assuredly kept pace. So well have they done so, in fact, that I surveyed the restaurant wine lists in town and created a very appealing “Huntington List” that provides a bottle for every purse and preference.

My experience with buying wine in restaurants – and watching other people buy wine in restaurants – suggests to me that price tends to be the determining factor. With that in mind, I’ve sifted through the wine lists of Huntington and come up with a “best of” master list that should help you find some very interesting, high-quality, food-friendly selections.

The High End

Penfolds Grange (Savannah’s, $475). We drink lots of Australian wine in the U.S., but precious little truly great wine from Down Under. This one is the undisputed best that Australia has to offer. In fact, it’s one of the world’s most outstanding wines. Okay, okay – $475 is kind of steep. But if you’re in the mood to celebrate, memorably, look no further.

Ridge Monte Bello (Savannah’s, $175). Savannah’s has always had a great wine list, and this bottling is proof. The 1999 vintage listed wasn’t a standout in California, but like the 1997 vintage in Bordeaux, the wines are dandy with food. That is, if you can find them – most were drunk up years ago. Monte Bello isn’t your typical powerhouse California red, and for this price you owe it to yourself to sample it at least once.

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape (21, $128). This is as good a red as you’ll find anywhere in the world, from a producer that has achieved renown in the past few decades for consistently creating a rich, satisfying red. Beaucastel is among a handful of prestigous Chateauneuf-du-Pape producers, meaning that this wine is well known and very highly regarded by wine enthusiasts and collectors around the globe. At $128, 21 actually has the wine priced to move – retail, it can be had for around $75, depending on vintage.

Flora Springs Trilogy (Savannah’s, $102). This is my favorite red wine from the Napa Valley. It’s a Bordeaux-style blend, a “Meritage” that’s composed primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, $102 on Savannah’s list (for the 2008 vintage) might look a bit steep, but really it’s a great price for a wine that should be drinking exceptionally well at the moment.

Rodney Strong Symmetry (Le Bistro, $88). Still more evidence that if you’re willing to open your wallet a bit wider, you can enjoy some wonderful wines in Huntington restaurants that are actually relatively underpriced for their quality. Symmetry is mostly Cabernet and mostly a winner with critics. It’s also $60 retail, so Le Bistro’s markup is well below the industry standard. So go ahead, order the second most expensive label on the list, and prepare to be dazzled! (Number one, at $130, is also pretty solid: The Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape.)

Right Down the Middle

The Prisoner (Le Bistro, $65). This is a nearly perfect, better-than-basic California red wine. From my perspective, it’s a no brainer, if you’re dining on anything in the roasted- or grilled-meat universe. You’re getting a splendid cross-section of all that Napa has to offer here, as the wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Grenache – in other words, pretty much all the red grape varieties that are fit to drink.

Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon (Rocco’s, $40). Joel Gott is a California winemaker who concentrates on delivering exceptional quality at a great price. His wines are
almost always a good bet, and in this case the 815 Cab is representative of all that’s wonderful about the state’s main red grape varietal and “king” of red wines.

Caymus Conundrum (21, $33). This is the perfect white wine to drink with food. It’s been around since 1989, but the producer never reveals what the specific components of the blend are – hence the “conundrum.” Typically, it’s Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but also included are Semillon and Viognier, which lend an aromatic and textural complexity to the wine that elevates it above many other whites. This is pretty much my deserted island white wine.

Great Bargains

Carparzo Rosso di Montal-cino (Rocco’s, $40). For decades, Italy could boast of two collectible wines to rival those of France: Barolo, produced in the northern region of Piedmont, and Brunello di Montalcino, produced in Tuscany. Brunellos tend to be fairly pricey, but you can sample what they’re all about by checking out their little brother, Rosso di Montalcino. Rossos (or should I say “Rossi”?) are just about the perfect wine to drink with much of the robust Italian food we see in the United States. At $40, this wine is one of the better deals on Rocco’s very nice list.

Beringer White Zinfandel (Rocco’s, $24). Seriously, a White Zinfandel? Does anyone really drink the pink wine anymore? Well, if you don’t, you should – and you should know that Beringer makes, hands down, the best version. There’s nothing better to drink with a mozzarella sandwich on a summer day or to wash down a simple cheese pizza.

So there you have it: a selection of wines at various price points from the Huntington area’s best restaurants. You won’t go wrong with any of these, and, best of all, each of these wines will pair well with food. So happy drinking – and dining!

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