Wall Street Journal Wine Writers Protest Too Much

Michael Nagrant / 02.29.08

The Wall Street Journal wine team of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher examine what happens in high end restaurants when you request by the glass wine pairings to accompany a tasting menu.

What could have been an interesting nuanced exploration turns into the typical crochety affair of a couple of journalists living high on the hog and their expense accounts hoping to be taken care of at high end restaurants. They seem to be more obsessed with rejecting tables they don’t think are good enough and communing with head sommeliers than parsing their pairings.

This would be fine for a normal customer, but they make a big deal in saying how they try to remain anonymous when they dine out, and these actions certainly draw some attention. Frankly we’d be rude to them too.

Either way, we think it disingenuous for them to say they try to be anonymous when they dine out, when they have a picture plastered at the top of their column. After the semi-trashing Le Bernadin received in this article, smart restaurant owners will probably put their pic next to their photo of New York Time’s Frank Bruni in the kitchen now. I know I would.

Still, the Journal writers make a good point, which is even at the high end, wine pairings generally haven’t caught up to the long form multi-course tasting menus available in today’s high end dining world. Bottle service, dusty Bordeaux and status wines still dominate. Rare is the sommelier who puts as much energy into individual pairings as chefs do building menus. Though we’d suggest that Dorothy and John come to Chicago and check out TRU and Alinea where Chad Ellegood and Joe Catterson are doing some groundbreaking work in this arena.