New York is home to dozens of very good wine lists. There are massive, encyclopedia-length lists (Eleven Madison Park, Tribeca Grill); cool, funky wine lists (Reynard, Terroir, Roberta’s); killer Italian lists (Del Posto, Babbo); extensive organic, biodynamic and ”natural” lists (Contra, and Rouge Tomate, once it reopens), and even a terrific one devoted entirely to local New York–area wines (The Marshal; check it out). But there are very few that focus on older wines. At Dovetail, chef John Fraser’s recently renovated (and still exceptional) Upper West Side restaurant, wine director Jaime Kaloustian has assembled a section of older California bottles that’s a delight to graze through—a substantial step in an interesting direction. I had a 1997 Ojai Vineyard Roll Ranch Syrah there recently that was drinking gorgeously.
But the most remarkable wine list I’ve come across devoted to older wines—or, to be more specific, wines that have had enough cellar age that they’re drinking perfectly—has to be the list at Eli Zabar’s restaurant Eli’s Table.
This list is essentially heaven for wine geeks. And the reason is simple: For the past 15 years, Zabar has devoted his time to buying Burgundies, Champagnes and Piedmontese reds from top producers, then hiding them away in his cellar with the idea that one day he would open a restaurant and eventually sell them.