June 12, 2012

West Side Steakhouse - NYC, part 3 (and last)

Vincent Wine Company wines are distributed in New York City by Todd Wernstrom of Ice Bucket Selections. The wines are in a few restaurants so far, such as SHO Sean Hergatt in the Financial District. But one of the nice surprises of my recent trip was lunching not once but twice at the West Side Steakhouse, which currently has the 2010 Vincent Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge.

The West Side Steakhouse, on 10th in Hell's Kitchen, is an unassuming but elegant place that is more about substance than flash. While I wouldn't hesitate to come here for a fancy dinner, I like that it's low key, friendly rather than stiff. And the food's really good (and I'm not just saying that because they carry my wine).

Todd and I stopped by my first day in town to meet the lovely Ilona (at right, bad photo, sorry) and husband Nick, the proprietors, and enjoyed some nicely juicy hamburgers for a late lunch while talking wine and restaurant business. Todd and I agreed to return the next day for a more elaborate meal with a mutual friend who connected us earlier this year. We wanted to eat some steaks and taste a few other things in Todd's portfolio of US wines and small producers he direct imports from France.

The lunch turned into a three hour marathon of wine samples and some appropriately rare cuts of beef that I look forward to enjoying again on my next visit to town. For starters, we tried a Champagne that Todd imports, a producer that I believe is otherwise not in the US and that apparently was part of the original group of producers that started the Special Club where Champagne producers bottle special wines in similar squat bottles you should try whenever you can.

The NV Nomine-Renard Cuvee Nomine was an excellent surprise. Todd loves Champagne and said it was good, and on opening I liked it for its crispness. But with time in the glass and a little rise in temperature, this Champagne was exactly what I want. Finely balanced between apply crispness and broad yeasty, brioche flavors, lively in the mouth with persistent length, this isn't a powerhouse but such a fine, elegant Champagne. I expected this to be good and sometimes that's a hard position to be in. In this rare case, the wine was even better.

Then we moved on to a pair of Oregon wines I knew from Todd's web site but had never seen in Portland and certainly never tried. The producer is the Grand Dalles, a vineyard I've since visited outside of The Dalles and will write a bit more about. For now, imagine rolling hills of wheat outside a dusty city on the Columbia River about 100 miles east of Portland. In the middle of this windswept scene there's a dramatic, uninterrupted slope covered in syrah, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, even riesling vines, struggling in a way that good wine grapes should.

The 2009 Grande Dalles Riesling Leroy's Finest (named for the initial vineyard manager) was initially powerfully petrolly, with a sweetness somewhere in the spatlese range but with an alcohol level more in turn with Alsace. After the Champagne, it took a minute to adjust to, then I couldn't get enough of its piercing acidity and ripe apple and mineral flavors. As with Riesling in general, some people will love this wine, some may hate it. I'm in the former camp and encourage you to seek it out. Todd said the soon to be released 2010 is quite different, and that would make sense. 2009 was a hot year, 2010 much cooler. This 2009 showed the broad texture of a warmer year. 2010 might have more focus. I'm curious to try it to compare.

With my perfectly cooked New York Strip (you know, when in Rome...), I really enjoyed the 2008 Grande Dalles Home Place, a mostly Tempranillo blend with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, at first the wine provided a marked change of pace and its new French oak aging was certainly apparently. With lunch and air time, a tobacco and tar quality emerged that made me think of Spain's Ribera del Duero. A loose comparison for sure, but apt I think.

Around 3pm we said our goodbyes and it was off to the subway to continue my NYC wine shop crawl. Yet a  few weeks later, I'm still thinking of this place. Doesn't that say it all?

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