Sunday, September 7, 2008

Anniversary Dinner

The Upper West Side of Manhattan was once a fine food wasteland (TS Eliot would probably call it Unreal City). The tide has turned in recent years, with new destination restaurants such as Bar Boulud and Telepan, much to my gustatory relief. I was further buoyed by Frank Bruni's review of Dovetail, the new UWS restaurant from chef John Fraser (last seen going through the revolving door that is Compass). Not that I really needed an excuse to try it, but I figured that it would be a nice place for my wife and I to celebrate our anniversary. We were not disappointed. I'm happy to report that the food was uniformily excellent with flavors that really popped. They even threw in an extra sweetbreads when I couldn't decide between that and the tuna tartare. More importantly for wine lovers, corkage is only $20 (2 bottles max) and the list is very well balanced and fairly priced. I talked a little with the somm/wine director and she indicated her dedication to lesser known wines (she hopes to boost her Loire selection soon), as well as well known staples.

I decided to lug along a bottle of Selosse Brut Initiale to the restaurant, as I had just acquired some and was anxious to taste it. My only previous Selosse was the Rosé, a wine that made Michel swoon. Upon the advice of several Board members, I chose not to decant it (as was suggested on the label-in French by the way) and then got cold feet and had them decant it at the table. What a wonderful wine. It had such remarkably clean lines; I kept waiting for some sharp edge of something (sweetness, astringency), but nothing was out of place. Still pretty young, it nevertheless showed great balance and had a nice cut to it. The fruit was quite pure and the flavors nicely delineated with a touch of yeastiness on the nose that I enjoyed. It lacked some of the nuanced breadth of vintage Champagne, but this was certainly one of the best NV's that I've tried.

The wine list was excellent with some real gems, so I decided to go a bit upscale with a 2004 Phelps Insignia. I really like Insignia and loved it when it was below $100. From the first whiff, it showed a clear Insignia profile with densely packed dark fruit, smoke and baking spice. The oak is a little overwhelming at this point (with my wife asking whether she tasted butter), but it became less prevalent with air and I suspect that it will integrate with time, as it has with other vintages. It showed lush and soft in the mouth with lots of silky tannins and good acidity keeping a rein on the ample fruit. The fruit comes across as a touch monolithic, although I suspect it will unspool nicely with some age. The finish is clean, long and mostly fruit driven. The 2004 isn't a blockbuster like the '97 and '02 or a structural marvel like the '95 and '01, but it probably sneaks in just behind those, ahead of the likes of the '96 and the '94. Cellar for future enjoyment once it calms down.

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