Sad news this week as James Iranzad and Josh Pape announced that their pioneering spot Wildebeest, that's been closed since March, will not be re-opening. It was always an ambitious spot—pushing the food, drink and wine envelope was in its DNA—but the new reality is that the cost and effort to maintain such temples of enthusiasm are a bridge too far for many if not all restaurateurs given the current climate.
Upon receiving the news I went back to the website to revisit what made it great and amongst all the memories I came across what will turn out to be the last version of their wine list (you can see it here).
And while it doesn't include all the reserve wines, it's still a killer. I'm not sure if it's current wine director Christina Hartigan's work, or if it's a team effort, but it's really something. So we're dusting off the Wine List Once Over in tribute to this great spot.
The Theme: Confident meets cool kids. This is a list that a businessperson from Des Moines and a stockist from Chambers Street Wines could both find some love in.
The First Impression: Wow. It's actually really tricky to decide what bottle to go with. On the average list there's 2-3 wines that jump out to me, on a good one maybe 7-8. But here, I really don't know where I'd land—the short list of bottles I'd be psyched to try is , like, 23. And there's a very good cider selection to boot.
The Steal: Well, there are Easter eggs dotted throughout here for thoughtful readers. They have the "Pet Matt Landrusco", Matthew Landry's wine for Okanagan Crush Pad for $65, and it was $40 at the winery (and that's cheaper than the wine at Matt's own restaurant if I'm not mistaken). A regular restaurant often places a higher mark-up on Champagne on the understanding that if you can afford it.....but here, notwithstanding the excellent selection of local, well-priced bubbles they're crazy reasonable on the French stuff, too. The wonderful Pierre Peters is $80 at the BCL and only $140, for a markup that's significantly under 2x retail.
The Not So Much: To be honest, I wouldn't put the boots to them if there was anything to gripe about. But, in fact, there's nothing here. Even the bottles that look pricey, like the $115 Aussie Gewurztraminer from Ochota Barrels, are in fact steals for wines that are really pricey and super hard to source. This list loves you.
Cool-Factor Bottle: Holy hell, where do I begin? The above treasure of a Gewurz from the sadly departed Tarras Ochota? Rieslingfreak No.2? Francois Mikulski's baller Meursaults? Natte Valleij Cinsault from South Africa? These are all wines that the world over would mark you as a person whose wine interests are hard on point.
The Copy Editor: All good here.
The Head-Scratcher: Again, nada. I guess I've always hated the label on Terrasole Brunello, but when they're selling a really solid 10-year old bottle of Brunello for under $200, that's pretty petty, even for me.
The Grade: A+. You can find some of these bottles at other thoughtful spots, but this grouping at these prices—forget about it. A flipping treasure is what it is. And they did this before the new variation of wholesale pricing. It supremely sucks that this list is now in the past tense.