Alinea wine pairings
I assume they do wine pairings but I'm curious to how they handle it with so many courses and if they have different levels of wine pairings and also what the approximate cost is?
nsxtasy, I'll go ahead and thank you in advance for the input...
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
I don't know the precise answer (because I haven't had the wine pairings there - we ordered by the glass), but my understanding is that the "standard" wine pairings are about two thirds the price of the food menu, which I believe is currently $195. However, they are also very flexible and I'm sure they would be happy to put together whatever you would like - anything from a more abbreviated, less costly wine pairing to one that's more elaborate than the "standard" one. Just discuss your preferences with your server (or the sommelier) and they'll be happy to accommodate you.
We had the wine pairings last summer when they still offered the 23 course menu. I think with 23 courses we had 13 or 14 wines (some of the 'courses' are just nibbles), which we split between two people (one glass). We were pretty sloshed by the time we left, in no shape to drive (which we had planned for in advance by using a taxi).
The cost is variable, partly because they change the menu and thus the pairings often (the server said they sometimes change the menu part way thru the night), but the 2/3's the menu cost was roughly accurate. They also offered 'enhanced' pairings for more money, if you want special wines.
Some of the wines were very inexpensive (ie even more over-priced than you normally expect at a restaurant of this caliber), but I thought they were excellent matches for the food and if we return we'll for sure get the wine pairings again.
I was there just over a month ago and did the pairings. It was a little odd for me, because they don't do it with every course. Without much direction they pour wines and bring out a course or two. I had to ask how many courses it was covering, because I could have just finished it off. They basically told me not to worry about it and enjoy, and they refilled me a couple times when I think I wasn't supposed to be done with my small pour just yet. It was 2/3 of the menu.
The wine pairing was the part that was the only slight downside to me. I made it clear I was no wine expert and hoped that the descriptions of the wines would be "dumbed down" a bit for me, but most of what he said was over my head. If I went back, I really don't think I would do the pairings. They just didn't seem worth it to me for how little I knew.
I have to say that each one went great with my dishes, but while I could recount my food course by course today, I could tell you much of anything about the wine I had!
I was disappointed with the wine pairings for a couple reasons. First, there was pretty much no disclosure as to the cost - not listed anywhere on the wine list and full price not disclosed until we had received our 3rd wine.
Second, I found some of the wines to be surprisingly inexpensive, ordinary ($12 bottle of Viognier at Binny's), and largely unmemorable. That's not to say you can't get a great bottle of wine at Binny's for $12, because you most certainly can. I just expected more from the best restaurant in the country.
Third, I think close to half of the wines (maybe 6 out of 13) were sticky and syrupy sweet. I might expect and Ice Wine or late harvest Riesling to show up toward the end of the meal, and in moderation, I quite like sweeter wines. However, as it was, we found ourselves choking down sweeter wines that didn't seem to pair too well with the dishes in hopes of the next wine being more enjoyable.
Maybe it was our fault for not being more vocal with the Sommelier, or for not requesting the price upfront, but I found the wine pairing to be almost as unsatisfying as the food was outstanding.
My advice would be to order by the glass ensuring that you get something you like and something that isn't going to double your already astronomical bill.
I agree about the wine pairings and to me, it was almost a distraction. Every pour was explained, which had this been a wine dinner I would have appreciated, but it wasn't. I would highly recommend talking with the sommelier about a couple of wines you know you like and pick maybe two or three if you're more than two to enjoy throughout the meal.
another echo on skipping the pairings and picking some good bottles, maybe half bottles if your group is small. I would suggest getting a champagne, a crisp/mineral white and a lighter red (Pinot, Nebbiolo, lighter Grenache).
Not sure if i'm allowed to post links... but here's a good discussion at a wine forum about it:
I did the wine pairings and I would never do it again. Their premium pairings were $250 a head. For two of us, we could have gotten 2 or 3 great bottles.
Instead, we had not enough wine, less-than-stellar pairings, and left the place stone cold sober.
The food however was fantastic.