I have to admit I am not always comfortable being responsible for choosing wine from restaurant wine lists. There are so many things to consider: region, varietal, producer, vintage, price and, of course, what people will be eating. So most often, I eye the wine list for something familiar. We are Pinot Noir drinkers so I’m comfortable choosing a California or Oregon Pinot or a Burgundy. There are other French wines I am familiar with (thanks to many trips there and to Kermit Lynch down the street) that I often look for. And of course with the cornucopia of wines available from California, there are always other California wines on wine lists that I know and like.
So when we went to dinner at A Cote, a Rockridge French/Mediterranean-inspired small plates restaurant known for their selection of wines by the glass, I didn’t think I would have trouble selecting a wine. But as I scanned their extensive wine list I got nervous. Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia…the Republic of Georgia! Italy was well-represented but I have to admit as much as I enjoy them, I don’t know a lot about Italian wines. The French wines on the list, except for a few, were relatively unknown to me. And there was a tiny box at the bottom with 3 California wines listed.
This is where a wait staff experienced in wine is important and the bartender on duty came to my rescue. When we asked him about a light, crisp white to start off the evening, he pointed us to the Codega/Rabigato, Niepoort, Tiara from Duoro. I know that Duoro is known for Port, the opposite of light and crisp, and one summer I got completely burned out on cheap vinho verde, so I was a bit skeptical. The waiter kindly brought us a taste of it and it was nice. I was actually in the mood for a cocktail anyway but Uzi ordered a glass of it. We were both pleasantly surprised with the Portuguese wine. It was fresh and crisp yet creamy; perfect to start the meal with and one of the least expensive wines on the menu. Thank you, bartender, for encouraging us to get out of the rut and try something different.
Bartenders and wait staff always seemed pleased when customers order something out of the ordinary (in this case, considering the wine list, that was not hard!) especially if it based on their recommendation. When possible they will often offer a taste of it, if you are unsure. Try it next time you’re out, you may “discover” a new find. I may even go back and forgo a cocktail for the Saperavi, Vinoterra from the Kakheti Valley, Republic of Georgia.