Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Wine at Olana


It's always a pleasure when one walks into a restaurant, peruses the wine list and finds the wine director's taste is very much in line with one's own.

This happened, somewhat unexpectedly, when I paid a recent visit to the Madison Square area's Olana, a new addition to the eating scene this year. As I waited for my dining partner, I looked over the wines by the glass. This is usually a quick job for me. By-the-glass lists, meant to appeal to the widest array of people, are typically the terrain of the homogeneous and the unexciting. If I find one wine I like, it's a miracle. At Olana, I had a tough time choosing.

Should I get the Martinsancho Verdejo from Spain, which I love? Or the Millbrook Tocai Friulano, another favorite, not often seen on wine lists. An Austrian Gruner Veltliner looked promising, as did a pinot noir from northern Italy, and a Merlot from Bedell in Long Island.

Finally, I settled on a rose made from Merlot by Long Island's Channing Daughters. This winery almost never disappoints me. I'm beginning to think the winemaker Christopher Tracy some sort of genius. Sure enough, the rose was inspired, from its color (a beautiful rose-salmon) to its depth and character.

Upon sitting down, owner Patrick Resk tried to stump the table by producing a 2007 Kerner from Kofererhof. Far from unfamilar with this German hybrid grape, I often count it a favorite (and a value), if handled well. This one was, a round, viscous treat from the Alto Adige. I do like a man who appreciates the northern climes of Italy, where its hard for winemakers to escape the influence of terroir. Resk then brought out a 2004 Punica Barrua from Sardinia, a smooth (which is not to say bland or innocuous), fullsome, round wine that was a perfect accompaniment to Braised Short Rib sandwiches we were eating.

Punica Barrua is a joint-venture between Sardinian winery Cantina Sociale di Santadi and Tenuta San Guido, home of Sassicaia. So it's no suprise the wine is a success, if one of an international character, as opposed to a Sardinian one. The blend is 85% Carignane,10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot. The wine spends 18 months in Allier oak barriques, a third of which are new, an third of one harvest's use, and a third of two harvests' use. The blend is selected from the finest lots and bottled without fining or filtering. It rests in bottle twelve months prior to release.

Both of the above wines were off menu. It would be good if they went on the menu.

Olana divides the wine list into New World and Old World, wisely catering to both the fruit-forward friendly crowd and those (like myself) who like to see a little more varied expression in their wines than a pronounced fruit character. Selections from Piedmont, Friuli, Alsace, Alto Adige and Sardinia always provoke my interest, and they were to be found here. The California line-up entranced me less, but that's just me. No wine-growing region can send me into a quicker sleep than predictable, popularity-seeking Cali.

Olana has a fine circular bar which ought to be more of a destination if people knew of the wine selection here—not large, but select. Perhaps some additional care in shaping the cocktail list (too short and too much emphasis of vodka and intrusive garnishes) might amend that situation.

1 comment:

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