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RESTAURANTS : Wining While Dining at Colette

February 07, 1988|DAN BERGER

You are sitting in a fine restaurant watching the waiter pull the cork out of the Chardonnay that you have ordered and the cork breaks. He grumbles and wanders off, returning in a few seconds with the bottle opened, but no cork.

What do you do?

Frankly, I didn't know what the protocol was, either, because when corks have broken in the past, the waiter has always put the pieces down for me to see.

The situation occurred the other night at Colette at the Beverly Pavilion Hotel; it was one of a couple of bobbles that bothered me about an otherwise pleasant evening.

After the cork-break, I asked the waiter for the cork. He grumbled again and went to retrieve it. Back came half. The wrong half--the dry end. The other half? I never asked for it, because by then I had tasted the wine, a 1986 Cuvaison Chardonnay, and had found it to be fine. No need to fetch the cork remnant.

Still, it was the second bobble, preceded by the delivery of the wrong vintage. I had ordered the 1985 Cuvaison, a stunning wine. Since the wine list had been printed by a machine and was encased in plastic, I assumed it would be up to date. But the '86 Cuvaison Chardonnay is also excellent, and I accepted it.

The list at Colette is a good, solid, well-intentioned one that needs a little care and feeding to become great. It's obvious that someone has worked at it, but it misses every so often.

Pricing isn't as low as it ought to be in many cases. There were few really good values, and the wine-by-the-glass program, though creative, offered nothing exciting at pricing that also was bit on the high side.

The basics: 109 wines; pricing just under twice retail for current vintages, but a little high on some wines and most older vintages; only one half-bottle (a Champagne); no magnums; interesting and creative wine-by-the-glass program; good dessert wine list; average glassware; corkage, $10 per bottle.

Best wine: 1966 Chateau Montrose, $120.

Best white wine value: 1986 Cuvaison Chardonnay, $24.

Best red wine value: 1985 Wild Horse Pinot Noir, $22.

Biggest rip-off: tie between 1986 Sutter Home White Zinfandel, $16, and a 1984 Entre Deux Mers white by the glass, $5.

This last wine and all wines by the glass are a scant five ounces, served in a glass not much larger, meaning swirling is impossible. Moreover, a 3 1/2-year-old Entre Deux Mers for $5? At retail, that wine would sell for less than $5 for an entire bottle.

The dessert wines offered by the glass showed creativity, topped by a glass of 1977 Robertson Rebello Valente Port at $10, a good value. I ordered a glass of 1975 Chateau Liot, a Barsac of some repute. It was good, though slightly older than I remember from tasting it a year ago.

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