Thursday, January 10, 2008

BYOB: Wines at Marigold Kitchen

Lest ye despair, faithful readers, that I have foregone the pleasures of wine at repast, fear not. I have just been focusing of late on catching up with things on the Philly front. And along the way, I’ve decided that when writing up BYOB restaurants, it would be best not to intertwine wine notes into the restaurant report. After all, wine at BYOs, though hardly an afterthought on my part, is not selected nor purveyed by the establishment.

One of the beautiful benefits of the BYOB culture so prevalent in Philadelphia is the opportunity it affords to sample several bottles over the course of a meal. Leftovers can always be carried home or, more magnanimously, shared with the service and kitchen staff or even with neighboring diners. At a licensed restaurant, one might be more likely to scrimp or hoard, as high mark-ups can quickly and quietly change an evening’s outing from comfortable to extravagant. When dining in spots with liquor licenses, I’ll continue to include wine and beverage commentary in the central report, as I consider the wine list an integral element of the overall full-service restaurant experience.

So, consider this episode one of a new thread: the BYO wine list. During a recent meal at Marigold Kitchen, my dining partners and I enjoyed...

Champagne Grand Cru “Cuvée Rosé,” Delavenne Père et Fils NV
Delavenne is a small grower producer (RM) Champagne house located in Bouzy, with vineyards there, in Ambonnay and in Cramant. Their “Cuvée Rosé” is not a rosé de saignée but rather a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Noir (white juice only) made pink by the addition of 12% Bouzy Rouge, a still wine made from 100% Pinot Noir. Fresh and fruit forward, bursting with delicate aromas and flavors of raspberries, strawberries and orange peel, hinting only ever so slightly at an underlying yeastiness, it made for an excellent aperitif. By sheer stroke of luck, it turned out to be pretty tasty with our beet and almond amuse bouche.
$48. 12% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.

Kremstal Grüner Veltliner “Holzgasse” Qualitatswein trocken, Weingut Buchegger 2006
Austrian wine seems to have achieved a renaissance in the popular mind over the last few years, with the unfortunate side effect of sky-rocketing prices. A Federspiel from a good producer now often costs what a Smaragd from the same grower did only two or three years ago. That inflation has put an awful lot of tempting wines up in the $30+ starting price range. So when I found a Qualitatswein Grüner Veltliner priced in the mid-teens during a recent trip down to State Line Liquors, it caught my eye. The producer, Weingut Buchegger, was an unknown quantity to me; its importer, though, is on my short list of most trusted back labels. I snatched it up posthaste. Was it worth the money? Yes. Was it worth the enthusiasm? No. , Buchegger’s GV “Holzgasse” paired well enough in a neutral sense with appetizers ranging from sweetbreads to tuna carpaccio to celery root and hazelnut soup, yet it added little in the way of spark or nuance, serving mainly as clean, proper refreshment. Simple and slightly fat in texture, it was reasonably well balanced but lacked the nerve and peppery, citrus and floral characteristics I crave in a better example of Grüner Veltliner.
$17. 12.5% Alcohol. Stelvin closure. Importer: Weygandt-Metzler Importing, Unionville, PA.

Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Domaine Olivier & Anne-Marie Rion 2004
This turned out to be one of those wines that justified my practice of toting a half dozen bottles with me when I go to a BYOB. One reason for the heavy baggage is to allow for a range of choices to match the dishes that I and my dining partners select. The other primary reason is insurance. It’s extremely frustrating to arrive with only one bottle in hand, open it and find that it’s corked or otherwise flawed. It’s happened to me in the past and I won’t let it happen again.

This bottle wasn’t corked but it had clearly leaked. I immediately suspect heat damage in this scenario. However, this bottle was purchased at a temperature controlled wine shop which procures its goods through a climate controlled supply chain. It then slept for a year or two in my temp controlled cellar. Nonetheless, the cork was stained up and down its sides and oozing wine had formed a sticky mess under the capsule. Most likely, then, this was simply a faulty cork or a bottle that had been laid down in its box on the bottling line before its cork had time to expand and form a perfect seal. The end result, though the juice was still quite drinkable, was a wine that had been robbed by slight oxidation of both freshness and clarity of color. When last tasted, it was lively, bright and just coming into its own. This bottle was round, generous in texture yet dull in its acidity and features, like bland cherry compote. It was just alive enough to make an adequate mate to my pork loin and the olive oil poached salmon selected by one of my pals; it just wasn’t all it could have been.
$19. 13% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate Grown on Mount Veeder,” The Hess Collection 1997
Opened vaguely to accompany our cheese course but primarily as something to taste as we relaxed after dinner, this was also the sentimental selection of the evening. Our dining partners, visiting from California, had brought this bottle to me as a gift several years ago. It’s a shame that California Cabs built along this scale are all but a thing of the past. Though not as brooding and briary as wines more redolent of their Howell Mountain origins, this was well balanced, eminently drinkable and food friendly Cabernet. Its 13% alcohol is all but a thing of the past. Still showing potential for several more years in the cellar, there was plenty of freshness, with tannins full and plush. Black currant and blackberry fruit dominated with a touch of black cherry, cedar and spice rounding out the package.
Release price unknown. 13% alcohol. Natural cork closure.

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