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About this Episode

Alexis Rogers, wine educator and restaurant sommelier, and host Robert Tas present a double episode where they explore the wine list of the three-star Michelin restaurant Le Bernardin. 

This wine list boasts a 15,000-bottle collection that is truly global, with 900 wine selections from 12 different countries, and vintages dating back to 1875. Le Bernardin received the 2009 James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service,” and the 80+ page list showcases over 1000 bottles of all sizes, from almost every known wine region in the world. Luckily, Alexis is here to help navigate the list, give the background history, provide professional expertise on tasting notes, and what to pair with by-the-glass choices that are within your budget as well as those pricier bottles that are out of reach for most budgets. 

Wines reviewed include:

  • 1912 D’Oliveras Verde
  • 2005 Domaine Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru
  • Dom Tollot-Beauf Chorey les Beaune
Transcript: Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

RT: Hello and Welcome to CorkRules!

 I’m your host Robert Tas along with Alexis Rogers, wine educator and restaurant sommelier

Hi Alexis, welcome back to another episode of CorkRules, - a podcast where we help simplify and demystify the wine lists at some of your favorite restaurants. We talk with certified sommeliers and wine professionals who point out interesting bottles, classic food and wine pairings, hidden gems, value wines, or splurge wines that will take your dining experience over the top.

AR: Hi Robert! Thanks for having me! I’m beyond pumped to be rooting around in the gargantuan, award-winning wine list at Le Bernadin in this special double episode!

RT:  That’s right, we are talking about a restaurant that has frequently been voted “Best in the World, is on every restaurant top 10 list that exists, holds 3 Michelin stars - the highest award a restaurant can earn and has a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list. Anything said about it just feels like an understatement. It’s THAT spectacular. The original Le Bernadin opened in Paris in 1972 - started by siblings Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze. It was a smashing success and the NYC location followed in 1986. After Gilbert passed in 1994, Chef Eric Ripert took over kitchen operations and is now co-owner along with Maguy. The menu focuses mostly on fish - the best fish served with the utmost skill and luxury. Alexis, I assume the wine list follows suit?

AR: Absolutely. This 80+ page list showcases over 1000 bottles of all sizes, from almost every known wine region in the world with a humongous span of vintages. It is the masterpiece and crowning achievement of Master Sommelier Aldo Sohm. Well, one of his crowning achievements. To hear more of me cooing over the talented sommelier, winemaker, and author, you can check out our episode on Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. He’s really cool.

RT : Yeah, after that episode you specifically asked “Can I do Le Bernadin?” and here we are! So let’s dive in!

AR: So the reason I called this a double episode is because in the first part, I’m going to pretend like quite literally, “money ain't a thang” and discuss wines that are splurges among splurges. Not just unicorns, but giants, fairies, and centaurs. Wines you’ve only heard stories about. Then in the 2nd part, we’ll take a more realistic approach - but splurging nonetheless because that’s just what you do here.

RT: I love it! Off to Dreamland we go!

AR: Obviously we are going to start with a glass of champagne, duh, THE glass of champagne. Bollinger La Grand Année 2014 Vintage. A glass of this 61% pinot and 39% chardonnay is made from grapes that come from 19 crus and possesses exceptional intensity and minerality. Its winemaking is all above-and-beyond. It’s riddled and disgorged by hand and is aged over 2x as long as legally required. Bollinger has been awarded the Royal Warrant by the English Royal Family since 1884. The Royal warrant is an award of Excellence reserved for those that service the monarchs. The House is famous worldwide among the most elite for their precision and unflinching and uncompromising standards of quality. So yeah, it’s VERY expensive. A single glass is over $100. So, what does it taste like? Quince, bergamot, hazelnut, almond, buttery lemon and a sea salt finish. Phew! I would recommend pairing this with the pan-fried King Scallops with citrus butter. But for the ULTIMATE indulgence, go with an order of the Imperial Golden Osetra Caviar, the most expensive caviar in the world. Historically, if roe from A Russian Osetra was caught in the Caspian sea, it was immediately set aside for the Russian Czar. Marked by its striking gold color and large, firm, buttery texture - it is quite literally, The King Of Caviar.

RT: Wow, an opening fit for royalty on so many levels! Let’s keep racking it up!

AR: I’m going to stick with the glass pour list and if you thought $100+ a glass was something, brace yourself for a glass 3x that price and over 100 years old. 1912 D’Oliveras Verdeho, a fortified wine made from 100% verdeho grapes. Of the 4 main styles of Madeira, verdelho represents a med-dry style w/ notes of caramelized orange and creme brulee with a finish focused on dried citrus fruits and fig. This 1912 vintage was aged in barrels until 2008 - 96 years! That provided a wine of almost incomprehensible integration and development. With age, flavors tend more towards dried fruits and nuttiness. TBH, I wouldn't pair this spectacular glass of wine with anything, just enjoy it as it is and appreciate what 110 years can do to this nearly indestructible wine.

RT: It’s impossible to fathom a bottle of wine still being able to be consumed after 100 years! And still enjoyable! I can see why it comes with that price tag now. What unbelievable bottle is next?

AR: Alright, here’s where we go ALL out and order the 2nd most expensive bottle on the list. The bottle alone costs as much as a car. Well, it’s technically 2 bottles. It’s a 2005 Domaine Romanee Conti-Montrachet Grand Cru. It’s the best of the Best… in a magnum. Undoubtedly the question on everyone’s mind right now is “WHY is it so expensive? What justifies a $25,000 price tag? Firstly, it’s the producer. Domaine Romanee Conti is the most famous and exclusive producer in Burgundy - and probably the world, It is named after its most famous holding. The original vineyard was acquired by the Abbey of Saint Vivant in 1232, bought by an aristocratic family in 1631 that named it Romanee for reasons unknown that have caused speculation for hundreds of years. 150 years later, it became the subject of a vicious bidding war between Louis 15th’s famed mistress Madame du Pompadour and her political enemy, The Prince of Conti. The Prince blamed the influential mistress for his loss of stature in the eyes of the King, costing him - among other honors -the Polish throne, As a result of the bidding war, the purchase price of the land shot sky high. It’s said that the prince never shared the wine from this vineyard with anyone - close friends and family included. The land was seized and auctioned off with the onset of the French Revolution. It was eventually purchased by the Duvault- Blochet family, which owns it today. They have expanded their holdings in the region over the years but have never compromised on the quality of their wines. This particular bottling is 100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru site of Montrachet. The 2005 vintage is rated as “Legendary” and will be viable to drink for another 10 years. The Domaine produces 600 cases a year of GC Montrachet so every bottle is precious and seeing as this is technically 2 bottles, that makes it twice as valuable. All of these factors - producer, location, Grand Cru Rating, legendary vintage, and further aging potential - conspire together to make this bottle one of the most expensive bottles most of us will ever come across. Even if money were no option, I’d still savor every sip as I would have in my hand, the absolute most beautiful and ethereal expressions of Chardonnay available. I would be hesitant for anything else to touch my palate while consuming this Nectar of Gods, but you HAVE to eat here and you’ll definitely need something to soak up the magnum's worth of alcohol So pair this with the Dover Sole - a beautiful fish for a beautiful wine,

RT: Geeze! Splurge doesn't even begin to cover that! You really are drinking history here though. Out of curiosity, if this is the 2nd most expensive wine on the list - what’s the first?

AR: Another Domaine Roamnee Conti! …and it’s double the price.

RT: Alexis, it’s been fun talking about these incredibly unattainable wines but I can’t wait to see what you’ve found for us normal folk!

AR: Now it’s time to snap back to reality and search this list for some wine more within reach for the average person. We’ll start with something BTG. I always like to start with just a glass to accompany appetizers as that gives me some time to dig deeper and pick a bottle for my entree - or vice versa. You already know that we’re not going to talk about an Aldo Sohm list w/o talking about some Austrian wine! I picked a glass of the Zierfandler by Weingut Stadlmann. Zierfandler is a rare grape that’s nearly exclusively a curiosity of the Thermenregion, which stretches from the outer limits of Vienna to just south of Baden. Of the 77 acres planted to Zierfandler, nearly off are located here. The grape is also called spatrot and is similar to traminer (the family of grapes gewurztraminer comes from) and produces minerally white wines with notes of spice, almond and tropical fruits. Pair this glass with the Shellfish Medley at Le Bernardin.

RT: I love learning about these relatively unknown native grapes. It just goes to show us how much there is to be discovered in the world of wine!

AR: I’m with ya!

AR: Another way to “control the splurge” is to order a half bottle. A half bottle is a great way to taste incredible wines without shelling out for a whole bottle, and Le Bernardin has a huge selection! I chose the Dom Tollot-Beauf Chorey les Beaune. Located within the prestigious Cote d’Or, wines from this village can present a bargain and are some of the few bottles of red Burgundy that most people can still afford. The wines are vividly colored w/ distinguishable tannins and notes of strawberry, dark cherry, gingerbread, and licorice. The well-rounded structure of these wines makes them super food friendly in general but Pinot Noir and Salmon are star-crossed lovers and should be together forever. The ginger marinade on the salmon at Le Bernardin will really play well with those gingerbread notes in the wine.

RT: I love the classic pairing of Pinot and salmon - and that it breaks the generally held rule that white goes with fish.

AR: Right! That general guideline basically exists to steer diners away from high tannins that can increase the perception of fishiness. So that means that the next wine we are going to talk about is definitely out. But it comes from a region that also represents great values on incredible wines, the Dao region of Portugal. 80% of production here is red wine and they are mostly based on the grape Touriga Nacional but are more often blends with appearances by Tinta Roriz (aka tempranillo), Jaen (aka Mencia) and Alfrochiero Preto (known as babosa negro in Spain). The wines are big and bold, spicy and tannic. I recommend ordering this bottle of 2013 Quinta de Saes Estagio Prolongodo Reserva towards the beginning of your meal so you can decant it and it will be ready to drink just in time for the arrival of your entree. This wine is dry, firm and savory with notes of sour red cherry, rasp and cranberry, spices from extended oak aging, rose petals and black pepper. This wine should absolutely be paired with the Filet so that some of that animal fat can tame these big tannins!

RT: Portuguese wines are definitely gaining in popularity and I’m excited to see it! Alexis, thank you so much for tackling the humongous list at Le Bernardin and picking out wines we can both afford and wines we can dream of - and for the explanations on WHY these wines are so expensive. I know this was no small feat! To our audience, thank you all for joining us here on CorkRules for this special 2 part-er.

If you would like us to review one of your favorite restaurants, please send us email to:Info@CorkRules.com or visit our web website where we have a request form available and we will do our best to get it in the queue as quickly as possible.

We are looking forward to being with you on another CorkRules episode soon. In the meantime, please check out our website for other episodes of your favorite restaurant wine lists or wherever you get your podcasts.

And finally, drink what you love and please make sure you drink responsibly.




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