Ever since it opened, three years ago, I've loved ‘inoteca, the little wine oriented resto/wine bar on the lower east side at Rivington and Ludow.
I was there with Melissa on Wednesday night. Our objective was to get something light to eat and something delicious to drink. It should have been easy because in their own words..."Our passionate and educated staff is eager to introduce you to your new favorite bottle and to expertly pair it with our chef’s cuisine."
And, my memories are that it used to be so.
We were combing the wine list to find something under $100, not barriqued etc. etc. and interesting. It was my birthday, and not that I believe in these things, but it would have been nice to have had something good with a tad of age to drink. Something with layers and violets would have been in order. The pickings were really slim. The first sign of trouble was when the waiter insisted he send along the sommelier to answer any questions we have. Because of an incident we had earlier when I noticed the $160 1989 Ca Nova Barbaresco, (extremely overpriced, even for a 1989)I had the sense he wouldn't be much help. But they insisted so 'help' arrived table side.
I asked about the 1997 Vallana Spanna. This is a wine I drank lots of back in the 80's and 90's and at some point I stopped because they had gone over to the dark side. I asked if this was one of those dark side wines to new wood
He didn't know. I can respect that. The list is large after all. Then he asked, you want something with age?
You want something soft?
I hate that word 'soft' when it comes to wine. When did "soft" become a virtue?
No, I said with some complexity, some evolution.
He didn't know what I meant. He stared at me sort of blankly as he tried to search the limited computer of his wine brain to understand the situation before him.
The young sommelier (as he was called) who looked, 32?, used hair product prodigiously and had a smirky kind of smile, suggested an "Arte," imported by Marco deGrazia.
He was shocked, shocked I tell you, when I told him I was not on board for deGrazia wines (someone had obviously told him deGrazia was the God of Piemonte) and by the way, I didn't want anything in new oak or rotary fermented.
He didn't know what rotary fermented was and didn't ask..(A machine that beats the grapes up in fermentation. Helps the wine gets fruitier.) ..but I don't mind that. What I minded is that someone told him deGrazia is great and he believed it.
He insisted there is no new oak on the wine. And the look on his face said...who the hell were we to tell him otherwise?
Man, he hates me. He hates Melissa. His brown eyes turn blue he hates us so much. But, he doesn't get that maybe we know something. And maybe if he fesses up to not knowing, that's ok. It's the pretending that is so bad. And so he keeps on pressing with suggestions.
I won't bore you with the details. I tell him we're considering the Sardinain Dettori.......not exactly a bargain at $90. The young pup says, it's a little over extracted.
Extracted? But, the wine is foot stomped, isn't it? There are no extraction techniques done to the wine. Oh, the poor guy.
He doesn't flinch. It doesn't even register. I think, "This is what is wrong with wine. This boy is what is wrong. Attitude without substance." If he had said, "I"ve been there." Or..."I've talked with the winemaker." Or..."Really? Tell me more." But he doesn't. There is no curiosity. All he knows is that he's threatened. I didn't want to threaten him. But that's what happened. But really, all I wanted was something to drink. I don't even care if he can help me or not, I just don't want him insisting that he knows, when he's bluffing.
Then he continues on abou the Sardinian wine we're eyeing and says "You don’t feel the wood very much on the Dettori'."
And so, I decided not to let him know that the wine that 'didn't feel the new wood too much?" -- has no wood. It has no new OR old woodl He wouldn't want to know that it is raised in cement, and goes directly into bottle without ever seeing any wood. He wouldn't want to know. I imagine it would twist his brain in knots. Like how can you make wine without wood?
Do you see how this is going?
Melissa and I ordered the Paolo Bea Rosso.
He says there's new wood on that.
I say, there is no new wood in that winery. And certainly no small barrels.
He tells me Francesco (?) just came back and there was new wood, but not much.
How did I get into a pissing contest with this guy? I find it amazing that his little pea brain couldn't perceive that perhaps I really did know something that he didn't. And even still he might have known something I didn't but he was striking out with too much misinformation. All credibility was blown.
"The dry reds all undergo an extensive cuvaison that frequently lasts as long as 4 weeks. Malolactic fermentation occurs in stainless steel and then the wines are racked into large oak barrels""
The Bea was good. The food was passable but it was the missing care I have grown accustomed to here, presented unlovingly like slop in a canteen. Yes. It was an off night. It happens.
The music was loud enough to keep anyone older than 26 away.
My July lament: there are few places to go out in New York unless you want to spring for major dough. None. None. The best you can do is taking your Riedel or whatever AND bottles of wine to Indian on 6th or NoHo Star...and call it a day. Or night. But, I have to tell you those are great options.
Update: September 2007
It seems everything is safe at inotecca again. There are wines to be drunk but you have to pick carefully, but it is safe. And the food is back to being delicious.