By the WG, New York City
Picture this: You ask for the wine list at a fine restaurant, and the waiter returns with a leather-bound novel, sometimes containing multiple volumes, detailing the overwhelming selection. You flip through the multiple pages of Bordeaux vintages and Chianti producers while trying to decide what you’re ordering for dinner. Ten stares from the waiter and twenty minutes later, you finally digest the list, but by this time, you’re hungry, cranky, and unable to make a rational decision. You end up picking a crappy-smelling red Burgundy that sets you back $90, but you drink the bottle to ease the pain of financial loss, and you go home a poor, unhappy camper. Why must choosing a wine be so difficult?
Sometimes simple is best - a simple wine list, but with more options than just California Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz. This is where The Odeon, one of my favorite New York City restaurants, gets a gold star. Located in Tribeca, far from the tourist traps of midtown, this funky French bistro has been around for 25 years and is clearly doing something right! The place has a cool retro vibe, a trendy yet unpretentious crowd, and simply fantastic food. But the true prize is the wine list: relatively short and sweet, yet most diverse, you can find everything you need and more. Unique selections by both the glass and bottle are strong in French origin, but also hail from different regions around the globe. You can experiment with 21 still wines and 4 bubblies by the glass, with such interesting choices as an Irsai Oliver from Hungary and a Chenin Blanc from Chinon...
Chenin from Chinon? I admit, I thought it was a typo when I saw “Chinon Blanc” on the wine list. But then I realized it was actually a white Chinon from the Loire Valley, which is made from the chenin blanc grape. How’s that for visual confusion! I had never tasted a white Chinon before since it’s pretty rare (only about 1% of production), so I decided to give it a shot. This was the 2003 Chateau de Ligre Chinon Blanc, and it was a little dull on the nose and somewhat unintriguing. Crisp and light on the palate, it was pleasant, but a little boring for what chenin is capable of, and a little ho-hum for the price ($9.50/glass). If anyone has a good Chinon Blanc to recommend, please tell me! Until then, I think I’ll stick with Vouvray.
The Irsai Oliver, on the other hand, blew me away. This was the 2004 Nyakas Cellars Monarchia Olivier from the Buda-Etyek region of Hungary. Made from 100% Irsai Oliver, this super-find was aromatic like a muscat, jumping out of the glass with loads of floral and enticing exotic spice. Dry and full-bodied, it had a good dose of acidity to keep it crisp and food-friendly. And at only $8/glass, quite a treat!
So the bottom line: it’s cool to have the opportunity to try unusual wines by the glass, whether you end up loving them or not. And it’s cool to see a bottle list that presents a wide array of options while being completely manageable and easy-to-navigate. Cheers to The Odeon for providing both! And cheers to another 25 years!