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Mark Sommelier

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Everything posted by Mark Sommelier

  1. Burgundy and Cal Pinot are two entirely different animals. There are only a handful of really good Cal Pinots out there. And they are really expensive. Littorai, Paul Hobbs, Scott Paul. My gripe is that most of them are too clean. Light, sweet red wine doesn't appeal to me.
  2. Years ago I attended the Wine Spectator "Experience" in Manhattan. Michael Broadbent brought down the house when he sniffed a glass of Ladoucette and proclaimed: "Cat pee" in front of 800 people.
  3. Pipi du chat is a legitimate descriptor of sauvignon blanc. I've never heard it used for pinot grigio. I refuse to sell pinot grigio. It is the white zinfandel of the 21st century.
  4. Mark Sommelier

    Wine news

    Greetings! For those of you who crave wine industry news daily, there is a service provided by Benson Marketing Group. The daily wine news monitor provides 5 or 6 stories concerning all aspects of the wine and beverage industry including: direct shipping information, stock market analysis, weather conditions in growing regions, articles on winemakers. The sources are all over the map: Decanter magazine, Wine Spectator, Wall Street Journal, Sacremento Bee, newspapers in St. Helena, Modesto, Napa. You can read news directly at the site or subscribe to their daily monitors. Check it out at: http://www.bensonmarketing.com
  5. Mark Sommelier

    Corking Fee

    I keep 50 California chardonnays on my winelist (plus another 70 white Burgundies) many of them hard to get and very limited production. Think: Kistler, Kongsgaard, Martinelli, Paul Hobbs, Hyde de Villaine. Whenever a customer says "I don't recognize any of these chardonnays", I know just where the conversation is going. When I ask them what they drink at home the answer is invariably: Kendall-Jackson.
  6. Mark Sommelier

    Corking Fee

    Hoodwinkiness!! I love that word!!
  7. Mark Sommelier

    Beaujolais Cru

    Be careful what you say!! A French journalist was successfully sued this year for saying that Beaujolais is a vin de merde ! That being said, I read that the last vintage a full one third of the Beaujolais harvest was distilled into INDUSTRIAL ALCOHOL because of over-production and poor quality!!
  8. Mark Sommelier


    When does the grappa get served?
  9. Mark Sommelier


    I like: 10 year old Tawny port with nutty and mocha desserts 20 year old Tawny with caramel desserts Ruby and vintage port with chocolate desserts.
  10. Mark Sommelier

    Corking Fee

    Dave said: Greetings Dave and All. Before I begin this explanation I will don the flame-proof suit. There are many prefaces to this answer. It might help if everyone would read the Corkage thread in the California folder. Craig was helpful in posting a recent article about this subject. I will begin by saying that I work in a very special restaurant. We do not allow wine to be brought in. I have been in the restuarant business for more than 30 years. The chef I work for is not merely good, he is great. He is also French. His reference points are the 3 star restaurants in France. No one would think about bringing a bottle of wine to Alain Ducasse or Pierre Gagniare's. My chef thinks that should apply here also. I can't disagree. Years ago, the etiquette of bringing wine to restaurants was this: buy an expensive bottle, bring an expensive bottle. The BYOB guys no longer believe this. (How many of you read Mark Squire's bulletin board on Robert Parker's website http://erobertparker.com ?) The business of a restaurant is to provide (ie: sell) food and wine. In my particular case, I carry a $350,000 inventory. In addition, we buy several hundred dozen glasses a year. Dishwashers here are paid $11 an hour. Our tableclothes cost $88 a piece and have to be ordered 20 dozen at a time!! Wine is a "profit center". The food in my restaurant is very expensive (basic menu is prix fixe $75 for 3 courses). There are 12 cooks preparing this food for the 90 seats in the place. The payroll is staggering. We used to charge corkage several years ago. It only created problems. How much is too much? The BYOB guys like to show up with 12 or more bottles. 8 guys at a table with 12 bottles on a busy night is a nightmare. 12 bottles represents a considerable amount of lost revenue. Are you following me so far? In addition, a portion of my income comes from commission. I work hard to provide an interesting winelist and good wine service. The margins in a restaurant are not large. Before this turns into a rant, I'll leave it here and try to field any more questions that might arise as best I can.
  11. Mark Sommelier

    Corking Fee

    Please don't get me started on this topic.
  12. Yes, baruch, that's exactly the point. As Claude correctly pointed out, the top tier of negociants can be expected to deliver, but at a premium price. The French tax laws have caused much of these new developements. Many negociant firms have large holdings. A strict negociant is a blender. This new form of negociant is a vineyard manager, eleveur, winemaker and bottler, plus a blender. This is true in the Rhone Valley, also. It doesn't make for easy going on the casual consumer.
  13. The passing last year of Justin Meyer marks a milestone for Silver Oak. I remember the great vintages from the 80s very fondly. To be fair, SO prices have not skyrocketed recently like so many other Napa and Cal cabs. Last year the Wine Spectator revealed that Opus produces 30,000 cases a year. That's a lot of wine! What on earth could justify the insane price levels? The old UC Davis formula for pricing wine said divide the ton price by one hundred to get the bottle price. I can assure you that Mondavi is not paying $11,000 a ton for those grapes!!
  14. Craig, I see that we agree on several points regarding Burgundy. I am also of the "no decanting red Burgundy" school, except for the reasons you stated. I have taken to decanting young white Burgundies from certain producers, however. As far as negociant wines are concerned, I make a point of only buying small domaines for my winelist. The exception are the several domaine owned negociant wines that appeal to me - Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne, as an example. The issue of who is a viticulteur and who is a negociant has become blurred considerably in recent years, making this whole thing more complicated. Vincent Girardin, Bernard Morey, Verget: viticulteurs, eleveurs or negociants? The best strategy is this: the proof is in the glass.
  15. Another small producer of Chambolle that I have had success with is Laurent Roumier.
  16. I went to the Laboratorio this year for my birthday in April. There were 5 of us. There were only 13 people total in the room. We were pampered beyond belief. The service is smooth and professional. The wines were included. We were served 12 courses. Like boneheads, we couldn't keep our hands off the delicious breads. Roberto is a long time personal friend (I met him when he was a skinny 21 year old cooking at Romeo and Juliet), so maybe I am the slightest bit biased . Despite my ardent protestations, the entire room sang the damned happy birthday song. All in all, a night to remember.
  17. Mark Sommelier

    Bordeaux 2000s

    Baruch asked me: Assume a bottle of 1995 Bordeaux cost $20: a) how much do u charge for that bottle on your wine list? b) how much would u charge per glass, assuming that was an option, & assuming a "normal" pour is 5oz/glass? c) what would that bottle cost in a retail store? I consider wine pricing an art. Each restaurant has different circumstances governing the pricing strategy. For my particular restaurant the answers are: a) $55 b) $15 for a 6 oz. pour c) $30
  18. Makoto is truly amazing. It is located on the ground floor of a row house on MacArthur Blvd. There are 11 seats at the counter and 14 seats at the tables. One must remove one's shoes upon entering. Ito-san is very cool and low-key. Snag a seat at the counter, if possible. I went with a friend who owns Asian restaurants. The parade of plates was astounding - 10 courses in all. The staff is very gracious. Expect to spend some money, though. After the main course you are asked if you would like to repeat any courses. We went for more sashimi and tempura soft shell crabs. I love this place!
  19. Charlie Palmer Steak was reviewed this weekend in the Washington Blade. Here is the link:
  20. Craig, I agree with you on this. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Krug Grand Cuvee is the only champagne that is fermented in the half bottle as well as the full bottle.
  21. 2 years ago I was talking to Jean-Louis Palladin ( I worked for 6 years at JL's place at the Watergate) about his dinner at El Bulli with Roberto Donna. He told me "I had the best dish of my life and the worst dish of my life in the same meal". The dish he loved was the chicken gelatin fettucine alfredo, the dish he hated was some sort of fish tartare that reminded me of Dan Aykroyds Bass-o-Matic routine from Saturday Night Live.
  22. Mark Sommelier

    Bordeaux 2000s

    Now we have opened the can of worms. Remember the debacle last year when the Bordelaise actually considered offering the 2001 futures at the same price level as the 2000? These guys never learn. In my opinion, the last great value vintage was 1999. Well made wines, very forward. The distributors in this part of the country (Washington, DC) dumped these wines on the market at 50% markdowns to make room for the 2000s. There are still tons of '95 and '96 on the market at attractive prices. I recently bought '89 Cheval Blanc for $231 a bottle, a full $50 less than the thugs at Luis Vuitton Moet Hennessey are trying to sell the '98 for!!
  23. Mark Sommelier

    Cru Bourgeois

    Ormes de Pez Poujeaux Roc de Cambes
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