I love wine bars: Casual neighborhood places where you can relax with friends, drink something new, maybe even let your guard down enough to consider pretentious concepts like terroir (the way a specific vineyard site -- climate, soil, sunlight, breezes -- is expressed in a wine) and tannin (a textural component that along with acid, alcohol and fruit creates structure).
Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar, MainStrasse's latest addition, is just such a place. It radiates an intimate but relaxed vibe that's attuned to its patrons.
(See Chris Kemp's review of the restaurant here.)
Nobody here pushes the wine talk -- unless you indicate that you're ready for it. Ask for a recommendation and they'll respond with a few pointed questions that lead to well-targeted suggestions. Want to know more? Just ask.
There are about 10 reasonably priced reds and 10 whites available by the glass. A more extensive selection of bottles is offered, but the glass pours are reasonably interesting and pair nicely with the tightly focused menu or just a simple cheese plate.
The 2005 Astonvale Sauvignon Blanc ($8/$32) from South Africa is crisp and refreshing with plenty of zippy acidity to the pleasant (though simple) lemony, grassy flavors.
It pairs well with the salmon, the crab cakes and even the tofu stir-fry. The 2006 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($11/$44) from Marlborough, New Zealand, is much fuller and richer with tropical fruit flavors and a decidedly herbaceous finish. And a 2005 Michel Picard Vouvray ($8/$32), made from 100 percent Chenin Blanc in France's Loire Valley, is full-bodied and dry with well-integrated acidity and aromas of stone fruits and honeysuckle. Either of these would also have paired well with a range of dishes; it's just a matter of personal taste.
Similarly, some fine reds are also offered, including a big and juicy Australian Shiraz -- 2004 Mr. Black's Concoction ($11/$44) -- that has loads of dark berry fruit and hints of eucalyptus. Interestingly, it contains 4 percent Viognier -- a white grape that's blended in small amounts with Syrah (aka Shiraz) in the rare and expensive Northern Rhone wines from Côte Rôtie ("roasted slope"). It's terrific with the lamb chops, but the 2005 Joseph Carr Napa Cabernet ($11/$44), which shows plum, black cherry and currant flavors, pairs just as nicely. A 2005 Hogue "Genesis" Merlot ($10/$40) from Washington State is also good, though leaner and less fruity than our other choices.
Bouquet recently installed a high-tech system that stores open bottles in a neutral gas atmosphere, slowing the oxidation process. When it comes on line, I hope they add some offbeat wines -- maybe Italian Refosco from Fiuli or French Aligoté from Burgundy? -- to the glass-pours section. It would really broaden the educational experience. Speaking of education, the wine "glossary" appended to the wine list is a great idea, but includes several incomplete and misleading definitions. It needs to be revisited.
Regardless of these nit-picks, I urge you stop in and try a Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine or a Chilean Pinot Noir. You'll quickly find yourself converted to a terroir-ist supporter!
CONTACT MICHAEL SCHIAPARELLI: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fermentations runs in this space once a month.