What’s in a wine list?

Where do I even start? Even my opening sucks. Maybe I’ll try this again after walk down the street to the local Johnny’s and buy a plug of shotty brut style Andre for my mimosa. Probably shoulda just gone home after work last night instead of pulling my boyfriend off the couch and shoving him into my car for a “quick” trip to Raso’s around midnight. Midnight turned into 1:30am as it usually does…

It's funny because it's true.

When we returned home, my TiVo recorded the Polar Express and that had to be watched. I think I ended my night – no, I know I ended my night on the couch with a half-finished bottle of house wine (something Spanish) and a carpet of cheese pieces and cracker crumbs! I guess Nick went to bed somewhere in between all of that because I was alone on the couch. Just me, my late night snacks and my Christmas tree. Full circle: I’ve felt better on previous mornings and a mimosa might cure me. That or more cow bell…

My wine list at Noche can best be described as discombobled. My GM and I started the project back in September when I joined the staff but everything seems to have done a little flip-flop. The initial premise of Noche was to offer Spanish-influence  cuisine with a new American twist. The only problem with that was our wine list was so stuffed with crappy Californian Central Valley fruit that other industry people were literally laughing at our list. So, the GM and I took in upon ourselves to send back the crap that someone bought at the opening of the restaurant (neither of us were working in June!) and try to ignite the list with Spanish, South American artisanal wines. Doesn’t sound so hard, right? Well, when you put a wine student into a position of deciding power, you’re probably not going to be just Spanish and new world wines. I wanted artisanal French wines, my GM wanted Italy, we both hate Australia, hey! let’s buy everything that Charles Smith makes! So, the wine list grossly deviated from our original plan. We still had some bottle on the menu that served as a thorn in our sides but for the most part, we were pleased.

Now the menu is being completely re-constructed. After only being open for 6 months, we’re so far away from the beginning concept that people literally blog about our name “Noche”. They say that we have nothing on the menu that is Spanish, which is absurd: Plantains, jalapeno and cilantro in everything, our tequila selection pisses off the tapas restaurant down the road, etc. But I do kinda agree that we could put more latin flair on the menu. That’s exactly what’s going to happen in the next week. Chef is concocting a slew of new dishes and sides to silence the confusion of the Boston foodies/bloggers. Here’s my dilemma: ALL WINE MUST GO!

No French, no Italy and that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Craggy Range should probably go too. My GM and I are a bit beside ourselves. It’s no one’s fault in particular… we just left the original concept at the door like everyone else did. Fine, we’ll rebuild, adapt, move on. But the problem is I love most of these wines. We have been tasting and changing the wine list since September and we had finally reached a spot to grow the Reserve section when the plug got pulled.

Enter Argentina, Chile, Spain…. Are people ready to accept Garnacha over Grenache? One of the bartenders flipped out when I told him what would soon be happening to the wine list.

“You can’t convince me that Garnacha and Grenache taste the same! They’re totally different grapes and the terroir is different!”

Well, he’s a bit of a spaz and clearly has no idea that the two grapes are in fact the same. He wanted to sound cool (don’t drink at work people). But I understand. They do have striking differences based on the land they grow on and who grows them. But Garnacha and Grenache come from Spain and France respectively, and both countries are “old world” so the refinement ought to be similar. I find Garnacha to be spicier but most of the time these grapes are part of a blend anyway, so if I try very hard, I might locate a bottle that is stylistically similar to France’s Rhone gem. We’ll see. It’s a challenge and if it’s what must be done to slap the concept awake, I’ll do it.

The GM and I tried a Chardonnay oak bomb from Chile yesterday. Back to square one: tasting, adding and subtracting, trying to make wine reps take back wine we ordered from them one month ago. Last night we opened the Minervois wine that I had sought out last week. My GM said, “I have one problem with this bottle…”

“It’s from France,” I finished for him. He nodded. My Croze-Hermitage is going back, my Sancerre and Cote Est. I’m disappointed but I get it. Back to square one and all the big boys have to stay locked away in a wine shed somewhere in the middle of Lowell.


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One Response to “What’s in a wine list?”

  1. Catherine@duffy.net Says:

    Ah, Sancerre! I just tried it for the first time last weekend and loved it! Fun to hear your voice in your writing, Laura. Can’t wait to taste more of your expertise soon!

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