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Who wants to play to the wine list game?

It's a big ask, I know...but I thought some of you might enjoy it ;-)


Here's the wine list at a seafood-centric Chicago restaurant, L2O. My husband will drink only a token taste, so it's just me drinking. But the limited wines by the glass start at $14 and get serious in the mid $20 range. I think I'd enjoy drinking part of a bottle for for $50 than peering at my likely-to-be-tiny $23 pour.

So...what do you guys see that should be delicious and a decent value, with maybe a top price of $70 for a bottle, $45 half bottle, $90 for champagne/sparkler (husband will actually drink some champagne.) Left to my own devices, i would probably have ordered one of the Alsace Gewurtz, a Viongier from France or PNW, or totally punt and get a NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Or maybe that $40 prosecco.

What would you do?

Thanks, and bonus points awarded for anyone who knows what Chicago/Illinois law is about taking an open bottle from a restaurant (it's cool here in the Carolinas.)

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  1. Here would be my selections

    Bouzeron, Aligote, Domaine A. et P. de Villaine, 2006 43
    I've tried this wine and I don't like it, but every other wine geek who has tried it likes it. I just don't like aligote. The producer is excellent. It's actually managed by the nephew of de Villaine, who manages Domaine Romanee-Conte, which makes the most expensive wine in the world. This wine is a Kermit Lynch import.

    Petit Chablis, Domaine Sainte Claire, Jean-Marc Brocard, 2007 43
    Petit chablis is like the ghetto of Chablis. CellarTracker! scores are okay, so it looks like it's a good wine.

    Chablis, 1er Cru "Vaillons," Verget, 2004 88
    Pretty stiff mark up, but if I could afford it this would be the one I'd buy.

    Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Saint Cosme, 2008 48
    Probably the best value on the list.

    Riesling Kabinett, Ockfener Bockstein, St. Urbans-Hof, Mosel, 2008 45
    Saar. Yum. Usually this area has good acidity, but CellarTracker! notes indicate it's a little sweet. I had a 1983 spatlese from this vineyard last month at Bodega Bistro in San Francisco and it was excellent. I haven't tried this wine, but the producer is reliable. Here's a link to my note on a wine from this vineyard by a different producer:

    Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Pignocco, Santa Barbara, Marche, 2007 44
    I love wine from this area, but I've never had this producer. The bottle can look a little goofy, but it's not a gimmick. It's traditional. The wine from the producers I've tried has been good.

    1. White: Savennières, Domaine de Baumard, 2005 $60

      Red: Sancerre Rouge, Domaine Vacheron, 2005 $72

      My bonus points best try:


      1. Bottles of still wine around $70 I'd recommend...

        2005 Baumard Savennieres
        2005 Chidaine Montlouis Les Bournais
        2006 Deiss Pinot Gris
        2007 Knoll Gruner Veltliner
        2007 Godeval Valdeorras

        2 Replies
        1. re: Brad Ballinger

          I missed the Baumard and the Chidaine. I'd recommend them, too.

          1. re: SteveTimko

            Third the Baumard Savennieres (I love this wine) and the Chidaine.

        2. In addition to the others...

          Ciampagnis Vieris, Vie di Romans
          Casamatta Bianco, Bibi Graetz - one of the better versions of vermentino from tuscany.
          Lapierre Morgon

          1. You guys are great! thanks so much.

            I guess I'm leaning toward the riesling (because I've had a lot of bad riesling and one amazing riesling and I'm a bit fascinated) or the saviennes because of the preponderance of recommendations. And...what is the Chidaine? what is the grape..i'm totally unfamiliar.

            Things I noticed: none of the wines I was thinking of were mentioned. that doesn't surprise me ;-) No US wines menioned. No Champagne mentioned. Is that because no known or outstanding Champagnes were on the list in my price range, or because those that were were poor values?

            Thanks for the help and the education. Dinner is tomorrow, i'll let you know how it goes.

            4 Replies
            1. re: danna

              François Chidaine, biodynamic producer of Montlouis-sur-loire, an AOC from the Loire Valley near Tours (France). Wines are 100% Chenin Blanc (Pineau de la Loire).
              All whites, either still (both dry and sweet ) or bubbly.
              "If Vouvray is Stan Laurel - wiry, characterful, but with hidden depths - then Montlouis must be Oliver Hardy" says Chris Kissac's winedoctor ( http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regional... ).

              I didn't pick any champagne because
              a) almost all are above your $90 top limit for sparkler,
              b) I don't know the 3 ones listed below $90 and
              c) atrocious markups. E.g., Krug Grand Cuvée NV listed at $300, retails for about $120, sometimes less.I definitely refuse to pay 2.5x retail on anything beyond $100.

              1. re: RicRios

                Yeah, i figured as much on the Champagne. Unless I'm missing something, they seem to have Tattinger for $130 that is the SAME Tattinger I buy at Sams club for $36. And I'm pretty sure I've and that $88 Schramsburg sparkler (for somewhere in the $20s) and it was barely decent. A pity.

                Again, thanks!

                1. re: danna

                  The wines I list with a price range in the mid $40s retail for the mid to upper teens. The Verget Chablis sold for the low to mid $20 range four years ago. They've had it in storage for four years, but still the mark up is pretty high.
                  Baumard sold in the upper $20, although Premier Cru blew a lot of it out for $20 a bottle.

                2. re: RicRios

                  <Krug Grand Cuvée NV listed at $300, retails for about $120, sometimes less.>

                  then you are not in New York. $150 is usual here for that, and sometimes more in retail shops. Only Wine Library has it for $119 at Xmas.

                  The markups on a lot of those wines are pretty steep, but I saw some that I thought were decent qpr. The Paul Georg Blanc de Blanc Champagne at $91 is not too bad a markup, and a tasty wine.

                  My favorite domestic sparkling, Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, is on the list for $84, but it costs no more than $35 in stores. Like Ric, I hate to overpay.

                  If I can I'll try to give the list another go over this evening. I did see a couple of wines I /2 bottles I thought you might like.

              2. Shouldn't your choice of bottle be determined by what you order to eat? Or are you looking to arrive at the restaurant with a list of candidate wines?

                You've got some good leads above. A few others that caught my eye:

                - Alfred Gratien Brut; a decent enough NV
                - Henriot Souverain; even better

                - Anjou 2005, Les Pépinaires, Jo Pithon; a racy Chenin Blanc that's drinking well
                - Cheverny 2008, Domaine du Salvard; mostly Sauvignon Blanc and a certifiable bargain ($35); I posted a tasting note here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7009...
                - Arbois 2004, Grand Élévage, Vieilles Vignes, Rijckaert; somewhat fat and buttery like a Chardonnay but with Savagnin's acidity and minerals; very food-friendly
                - Chablis 2007, Laurent Tribut; one of my friends calls this a poor man's Raveneau...
                - Assyrtiko 2003, Santorini, Domaine Sigalas; not my favourite Santorini estate but one capable of producing excellent wines, and aged Assyrtiko is a rare treat
                - Chardonnay 2006, Village, Kumeu River; too bad this isn't an Estate or single-vineyard bottling but still a pretty good replacement for a low-end white Burg

                3 Replies
                1. re: carswell

                  Arbois is quite distinctive and I don't think the first taste for anyone should be a bottle marked up 2.5 to 3 times retail.

                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    Not all Arbois Savagnin is quirky. New-wave Savagnin is "ouillé", topped-up, not allowed to oxidize, producing a racy, vibrant wine with none of the nutty corn flavours that some people find odd. "Causing most controversy is a new breed of non-traditional ouillé Savagnins that allows the real freshness of the grape to shine through. For too long, the taste of deliberately oxidised styles of whites has been put down to the character of the Savagnin or the terroir. With these new styles, we are finally discovering what the grape tastes like with an almost lemon peel character and potentially raging acidity, that can be perfectly balanced as long as the grapes are picked fully ripe." www.wine-pages.com/guests/wink/jura.htm

                    The Rijckaert is very much in the ouillé style. When I served a glass of it double-blind to a sommelier friend, his first guess was an old-fashioned Mâcon from a top producer. (His second guess was a new-fashioned Savagnin.)

                  2. re: carswell

                    "Shouldn't your choice of bottle be determined by what you order to eat?" Well, yes. Or perhaps simply what I like to drink, I suppose. I am sure I'll be eating all seafood...and apparently a lot of bread as this place is known for their bread service. I've seen the menu online and I'll probalby be having scallops, halibut, thai snapper, tuna w/ "foie gras snow", etc. Honestly my pairing knowledge is not tremendously deeper than fish=white.

                    My recent favorite wines are 3 Brooms NZ Sauv Blanc, Incognito Viognier, Montinore Gewurtz, and Conundrum, although I don't really like it as much as I used to. Gruet and Tattinger bubbles make me happy.
                    But yes, mainly I just wanted to be forearmed, so I can pay attention to my husband a bit without stuffing my nose in the wine list in a flurry of indecision. You guys are clearly far, FAR beyond my level of knowledge...I really appreciate your time.