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Does the gold standard of South Asian cuisine have a wine list to match?
The Theme: In Vij’s former locale, the list was known for being amazingly compact and seriously affordable. It’s much larger now with, not surprisingly, an emphasis on wines that go with spice-driven cooking. Wines are grouped by style—Light, Refreshing Red—as opposed to country.The First Impression: There’s a lot to choose from now, but very few usual suspects. Instead there’s a lot of cult producers (Washington’s Gramercy Cellars, the Mosel’s Max Ferd Richter) and some wines in depth—like the hallowed Krug Champagne.The Steal: This is easy. The Les Halos de Jupiter White Chateauneuf-du-Pape is $72 on the list and about $71 at retail. That’s a $1 mark-up on a bottle that’s a revelation of the texture and body that a white wine can possess. Their price of Moet Imperial ($110) is $15 lower than both Hook Seabar and Homer St. And Vij’s long history with JoieFarm means they keep it real on the Noble Blend—$50 for a $24 bottle of wine. And wait, the Krug. The Grand Cuvée is $273 at the BCLDB and only $300 here. And the Cote Rotie from Jamet is only $200 for $153 bottle. Other than that though.The Not-So-Much: There’s nothing remotely egregious (i.e. over 3x) but there are a few head-scratchers. Culmina’s amazing Unicus Gruner is a perfectly suited for Vij’s cuisine, but not so much a $68 for a $27 bottle of wine but that’s still only 2.5 times, which is the standard at most spots. The oddball white from Slovenia’s Stina should be a wine you have to entice people to buy, but the 2.8x markup ($20 to $56) isn’t super enticing. But seriously if that’s all you can find, you’re doing just fine.Cool-Factor Bottle: The above mentioned Halos de Jupiter is a real hidden gem, and the Montepulciano from Tiberio (who are like Hansel right now in town) is likewise solidly on point.The Head-Scratcher: Who wants the Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Elk Cove at $80? And you already have one Zinfandel from the interesting Birichino—do you really need another from supermarket stalwart Clos du Val? I admittedly haven’t tried this wine in ages, but the label has me reaching for my Kroger’s Card. Also, not a single bottle of Bordeaux, which is odd.The Grade: A+. I had forgotten how good this list is—an amazing nexus of value and choice. If you want age you have a mini-vertical of Krug and the selection of light and aromatic wines is great. I suppose a diehard natural wine nerd might want a bit more, but, oh well.