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Feb 17, 2006 09:55 AM

Extortionate wine list at Manresa

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I had a fairly sublime meal the other night at Manresa in Los Gatos, but was put off big-time by the wine list, which, if memory serves, includes not a single red for less than $80. When I mentioned to the sommelier that forcing the customer to spend lavishly on wine might not be setting the right tone, he said all the wines were chosen to go with the food, blah blah blah, all of which I'm sure is true, but doesn't really address the issue. I mean, am I alone here in thinking this sort of ridiculous? I've eaten at many super-upscale restaurants in my time, and never have I encountered a wine list with such a punitive structure. I felt like I was being politely mugged.

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  1. how much is corkage?

    4 Replies
    1. re: cedichou

      Their website says corkage is $30 for the first bottle and $50 for each additional bottle. Their wines by the glass are pretty pricey too. I remember the ones we got were probably on the low end at around $15/glass. I just assume that all restaurants in this genre have higher wine markups.

      1. re: Carb Lover

        Nope. Manresa's wine list doesn't appear to be online, so I can't comment on it. But, if the prices are as reported, they're incredibly high. Well, high as a starting point for the low end of a list...the wines themselves may be fairly priced.

        Jardiniere, for example, has glasses at $9, half bottles starting at $22 and many 750ml bottles in the $40-60 range.

        Quince's list isn't online either but I recall price ranges similar to Jardiniere.

        1. re: Carb Lover

          It also says they'll waive corkage for each bottle purchased off the list.

        2. re: cedichou

          Corkage is actually $30 for the 1st bottle, $50 for each subsequent bottle, with one bottle free for every bottle purchased off the list. I went to Manresa last Saturday night -- -- and brought in two bottles, bought two bottles, and no corkage was charged.

        3. I felt the same way at 5th Floor while under Rajat Parr's leadership (not sure if it has changed under new sommelier). I felt cheap by ordering the least expensive wine for $60 some dollars. I go out to eat several times a week and feel very lucky with most wine programs in the bay area, but there are a few restaurants who feel they can charge $80 as a minimum. Many times the best food wines (with appropriate acidity) are old world wines which could easily be offered for under $50.

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            Robert Lauriston

            Do you have any examples? It's not clear whether the high prices are due to their selecting only expensive wines or to marking up more than the standard 3X wholesale.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I'm not sure that's relevant, since neither is acceptable (although excessive markup feels like more of a rip-off).

              If a sommelier isn't knowledgeable or diligent enough to source wines that are appropriate to go with the food for under $80 a bottle s/he's not qualified for the job.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                The mark-ups are high, Robert. The mark-ups on some wines may be less -- on a percentage basis -- than others, but that only means the best known names (e.g.: Dom Perignon) may be only slightly less ridiculous than others (e.g.: Krug).

                That said, 1996 Drappier Carte d'Or is available at full retail for $75, but you can find it for less. Nonetheless, that means the California wholesale is $50/btl. It's $215 on the list.

                1. re: zin1953

                  Ouch. That's gross. Cheaper to pay the steep corkage.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    It is indeed.

                    FWIW, I emailed the general manager about it -- no response yet.

              2. $80 being the lowest priced red on a wine list is inordinate for any restaurant IMO. I can understand a restaurant having its wine program in correlation with a particular region, wine style, or other food-driven reasons. But I find it statistically impossible that it just so happens that a restaurant’s particular cuisine correlates with “more expensive” wine.
                A rule that I follow is to shy away from pairing staggering and/or complex wines with complex cuisine. In this way the complexities aren’t challenging one another (and the glories of one can really be focused on).
                Note: I do not have access to Manresa’s wine list so my basic assumption is that at $80 min for a bottle of red the list is populated with impressive/staggering selections. If this is not true then I’m completely confounded by the prices.
                I haven’t visited Manresa but I’ve read the menu and I think that we can agree that the food is more complex (and at those prices it better be). Therefore, I think that the option of choosing a simpler (and cheaper) wine at least should be made available (e.g. Marcillac, Madiran or other South-West French wines).

                1. It does make the paired tastings look like a good deal by comparison- $52 for 4 courses and $80 for the extensive tasting menu

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Navin R Johnson

                    Isn't that per person though? I generally share a bottle so it still cuts that same to my observation.

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      Yes- but if you compare the $80 least expensive red to a flight of tasting pours that will easily top an entire bottle in volume and comes from bottles probably costing on average at least $80 if not more then it becomes the "bargin". At least that's how I rationalize $80 wine flights to myself :)

                      1. re: Navin R Johnson

                        If for the 4 course option they are providing a 6 ounce pour per course then it makes sense (6oz x 4 = 24oz [or approximately 750ml]). But I’m willing to bet that it’s probably closer to a 3 ounce pour per course which would put you at around $104 prorated for an entire bottle (OUCH!).

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          My bf and I shared a wine pairing at Manresa last month, and the pours were between 3 and 4 oz each.