Restaurant wine lists are often intimidating and expensive. Coupled with a the often snooty Sommelier, the common American restaurant wine experience can easily result in a fast order of beer or mixed drink just to avoid the difficulty and expense of ordering a bottle of wine.
Recently I have been on the hunt for value in wine lists and decided to test my theory at Casbah, a well-known local restaurant with an extensive wine list. Although there are many high priced bottles on the list, I happened to notice several Bordeaux bottles listed in the mid $30s – the wine director was kind enough (and not snooty with us at all – despite the fact that we were looking at some of the least expensive wines on their list) to bring several bottles up from the cellar for us to look at and make a choice. We chose a 2009 Chateau des Leotins. Our rationale was driven by the fact that 2009 was such a good vintage that even inexpensive wines may be good, and since we knew nothing about this wine, or the blend (turns out to be nearly equal parts Cabernet and Merlot with a dash of Cab Franc), we just rolled the dice and went for it. The Chateau des Leotins is a medium bodied wine with some earthy fruit and nice balance that matches nicely with savory foods. While inexpensive Bordeaux wines in poor vintages can exhibit a bitterness (sometimes herbaceous), 2009 was such a good year that none of those negative characteristics are present. As it turns out the wine is a surprisingly good for the price category, and at $36 on the Casbah wine list it qualifies as a great value for a restaurant bottle.