When we last visited Fennel, three years ago, it had a wine list with every possible flaw. It was poorly chosen and overpriced, with many off-vintages.
When the four owners initiated the recent changes, the wine list was not overlooked. The result is an amazing transformation. The new list is more compact, but it offers more exciting choices, and at prices anyone can afford.
In keeping with the bistro theme, the list now includes such excellent finds as 1989 Domaines Ott Rose from Provence, $27, and 1988 Hugel Gewurztraminer, $26. Both are priced just a few dollars above retail.
For the more mainstream-minded, the Chardonnay listing includes such good values as a 1988 Montagny from Boillot, $30, and 1987 Sterling Diamond Ranch Mountain Reserve, $25.
Red wines include bargains such as 1983 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery, $28; 1990 Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages, $15, and 1984 Fisher Coach Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon, $25.
As a bonus, most of the red wines have a little age. And most of the imports are from top producers.
When Fennel first opened, the wine list was so off-putting that smart people with good cellars opted to bring their own wine to dinner. With the restaurant's newly redesigned wine list, that tactic is no longer necessary.