It is a truth, universally acknowledged*

Jane Austen

*with apologies to Jane Austen

… that the cheapest wine on the list will always get more attention than perhaps it might otherwise warrant- were it not cheap. And when the cheapest wine turns out to be pretty mediocre, that’s not good -for the restaurant or the winery, since more people than average will be drinking it – and disappointed by it as well. And when that wine turns out be from Long Island (the North Fork) well, it feels like a triple sort of disservice since so many people (ie New Yorkers) have misgivings about these wines anyway.

I was at the Redhead restaurant in Manhattan last night, having dinner with some friends. Winewise, we started with a simple Gruner Veltliner (the bright, crisp Austrian white) while foodwise we sampled the signature pretzel (which was good). We liked our main courses as well- especially the fried chicken and the mushroom pot pie. It was only when it was time to choose a second wine (red) that things went awry. We decided that a Long Island red was worth trying- it was the cheapest wine on the list ($21) after all. “And besides, it’s made where you live, after all,” said my friend Kate, enthusiastically. (Kate’s standard mode of expression is great enthusiasm- it’s one of her many endearing traits.)

Alas, the wine didn’t prove much of an ambassador; the rest of the evening most of it remained in our glasses. While we’d all liked the Gruner- nobody said much about the Long Island wine at all. Were my friends now wondering if I’d been making up the fact that there’s good wine where I live? Did they believe me when I said there are “much better Long Island reds”? Like the Merlots from Lenz and from Paumanok and Rafael- not to mention the super-Merlot from Grapes of Roth. But when we parted company and I said, “Everyone is welcome to visit – anytime,” they simply nodded. “Sure- sure … sometime,” they said – a bit evasively, I thought. I’m going to issue the invitation again- and promise to serve them lots of good wine.


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