To be good, a wine list needn't fill dozens of pages and list hundreds of wines. All it should do is represent every major wine- producing nation, include a wide array of older wines and offer them at reasonable prices.
But when a list does all of that and more, you know someone in the room cares about wine and thinks it is an important element of the dining experience.
Simon has it covered. He assembled the list at Bistro 45, an amalgam of what was seen at Cafe Jacoulet and at Marianne, the restaurant that once occupied Bistro 45's location.
So much is exciting about this list, it's hard to single out any one thing. Take Page 1: 25 wines by the glass that include such stunners as 1989 Babcock Riesling, $3.75; Charles Heidsieck Champagne, $9, and 1985 Ridge York Creek Cabernet, $6.25.
The 40 Chardonnays include the familiar (such as a number of Sonoma Cutrers) and the rare (Forman, Foxen, Woltner, Vita Nova); the Cabernet list (75!) includes a number of great but obscure producers (Dalla Valle, La Jota, Etude).
But the best thing about this list is what's available in the corners--the stunning 1989 Fogarty Gewurztraminer, $14; 1989 Ceretto Arneis, $26; 1989 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, $28, plus a flood of exciting Merlots, Syrahs, blended wines and Italian wines. The latter include the wonderful 1985 Tenute Marchese Chianti Classico Reserva, $34, which is no longer available at retail.
The best values are from Bordeaux, where sleepers are everywhere: 1975 Chateau La Lagune, $75; 1975 Chateau Montrose, $70; 1979 Moulin des Carruades, $35, and, perhaps the best buy of all, 1974 Chateau Trotanoy, $30. "It was an off-vintage, but the wine is excellent," Simon says.
Simon stands behind his old wines. Storage conditions are excellent, but if a bottle should prove to have a bad cork or to have failed the test of time, Simon is qualified to judge it and usually will replace it.
Prices are reasonable, glassware is good, and service is excellent (decanters are available--even encouraged--for older wines). The list of dessert wines rounds out a most impressive selection.
This list reminded me of Pasadena's Chronicle, where Lud Renick (who recently moved to Idaho) created a magical carte de vin. With Simon's enthusiasm for wine, Bistro 45 may soon become the Pasadena hangout for wine crazies.