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NYC Sommelier Recalls the Many Whales of Romera

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Throughout Whale Week, we'll be bringing you first hand accounts of excess from those on the front lines—the GMs, sommeliers, and other front of house workers of the restaurant industry. Here, a sommelier at the failed whale bait restaurant Romera tells his tale:

12_2011_09_romeragnbn.jpegWhale Week and excess. There was a quite a bit of that at Romera—but not in the way that you'd assume.

One guest came in as a four top with his wife, son, and daughter. He was impressed by the wine list, actually quite shocked at the depth and reasonableness of the selection, but he brought in two of the most outrageous back-to-back wines that I could ever conceive. I mean, if I had one more day to live, I would find and drink these two wines with my favorite people. That would be my last day on earth. DRC Montrachet 2004 (around $4,000 retail now) and DRC RC 1990 (around $20,000 retail/auction now). The Montrachet was perfection—I still think to this day it is not only the greatest Chardonnay ever produced on this earth, but probably the greatest wine I've ever experienced. In fact, I didn't really think DRC Montrachet even existed—I've heard from senior Martin Scott reps who have actually been to DRC that you can't even taste the Montrachet there, you can't even mention or talk about it, it is so rare. And I LOVE 2004s.

Oh yeah, the '90 DRC RC was pretty good, too (but I preferred the Montrachet.) And let me say this: sharing wine with your sommelier is always generous and appreciated (it certainly was this time). But most of the time, the sommelier really is working and we don't have time to pay attention to your wine—these dudes are just looking for compliments, anyway. And please don't think we're going to drop the corkage because you gave us four ounces of your California Cab, especially if you didn't buy anything off our list.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mick Jagger was totally reasonable, and very nice, ordering a 2005 "Claret" out of magnum, a beauty from Neal Rosenthal's excellent portfolio, the Moulin de Tricot from Margaux. The 2005 was a stunner, very traditional, but beautifully textured and elegant, especially in magnum, and exactly what he was looking for—just in case any somms out there want to know what Mick Jagger likes. He actually asked if I could write down the name of this wine on a card! (That's how you know a guest really likes it.) He shook my hand on the way out and thanked me for the recommendation. I never washed my hand again. JK, JK.

Drew Nieporent and Paul Liebrandt came in one evening to check it all out. Drew is always great, kind, charming, funny, and genuine—he is straight up a nice guy and a class act. Paul was quiet. I can see why they're a great team. Anyway, they brought some Henri Jayer Richebourg, I can't remember what year. This is, without a doubt, usually the rarest and most expensive wine in the world. It was stunning. It was exactly what Red Burgundy is supposed to be. They were generous, and the wine was out of this world.

Courtney Love was exactly what you think she would be like. She looked great, though. She lost her phone in the bookcase somewhere, of course. When we found it, she thanked us and let us know that "we saved so many people's lives right now." All in a day's work.

Finally, Lindsay Lohan. She mostly used Romera as some sort of VIP back exit to the hotel, a way to sneak (tipple?) in and out of the exits to Electric Room or the lobby. She drank Belvedere and sodas, and always stole our nice Riedel highball glasses and ended up going into the hotel where we never saw them again. (The hotel used much cheaper glassware). When she saw Romera's mosaic of vegetables, she pondered drunkenly if she was going to soon be playing checkers.

In closing, Romera was a sometimes fun, but extremely stressful year of my life. What I will say about this project is that the chef really did make the final decisions, and he was rarely checked by anyone. It was simply just too expensive, and he wouldn't hear otherwise. But the wine list was reasonably priced, had some cool finds but not too obscure, nicely curated, and thoughtfully edited.
· All Coverage of Romera [~ENY~]
· All Whale Week 2013 Coverage [~ENY~]


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