Liquid Assets

The Best Wine List in Town?

Liquid Assets

Since we're reviewing Mirabelle's food, we thought we'd give you a rundown on their wine. Owner Michael Vilim's wine list is full of interesting wines that you won't see elsewhere, and his markups are the lowest in town. A further nice touch is that almost all of his wines are available by the glass! Here are some of my favorites from the list.

Starting with the sparkling wines, don't miss the tiny bottles of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV ($9.75). Ask for two glasses, and split the bottle. Each person will get a wonderful aperitif.

The white wine list is filled with lovely wines, many of which are rare finds. Sauvignon blanc fans will enjoy Huntington Earthquake ($5/glass, $19/bottle) and the J. Reverdy Sancerre ($7/$26). For a great little lesson in how terroir affects the flavors, get a glass of both, and taste the difference. For chardonnay lovers, try the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve ($7.50/$27.50). When a noted iconoclast like Vilim brings in a corporate label like K-J, you know there is something special. If you want to spend a little more, for a lot more wine, he has the Landmark Overlook Chardonnay ($8.75/$34), a wine that typifies California style at its best. I love Alsatian wines, and they have one of my favorites, Chateau D'Orschwihr Bollenberg Gewurztraminer ($7/$26).

The red wine list stays away from Vilim's favorite varietal, pinot noir, simply because it generally costs too much (if you are a pinot fan, ask for his reserve list, where you'll find some lovely burgundies for $40-85). In the more realistic range, I have a few favorites: The Galhad Old Vines Grenache ($4.75/$18) is a full-bodied wine with delicious black-pepper aromas. Merlot lovers should try the Lambert Bridge ($7/$26). The most food-friendly wine on the list, the one that will go with fish or steak, is the Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel ($6.50/$24), a true bargain wine.

Always check at the bottom of the lists for the Extraordinary category. These are usually wines that are in short supply and deserve to be priced much higher than they are. A perfect example is at the bottom of the white wine list -- E. Guigal's Condrieu ($9.75/$38). Condrieu is the highest expression of French viognier, and it is usually too expensive to consider. I'm nuts over this wine, and when I buy it at the store, I pay $38, the same as at Mirabelle. When was the last time you saw a wine priced the same at a restaurant and a store? Vilim says he keeps the price down because he wants people to learn about it. On the Extraordinary category on the red page, go straight for the Clos Pegase Merlot "Mitsuko's Vineyard" ($8.75/$34) -- a rare and luscious wine that runs about $30 in the store, if you can find it.

Who knows the answer to the question posed in the title of this piece? Everyone has different ideas about what constitutes the best. Quality or quantity? Price or selection? Depth or breadth? For me, it is the sense that someone at the top has picked wines for their list and food for their menu that will marry with style. The fact that Mirabelle's wine list also features the lowest markup on prices and some of the most daring choices in town is frosting on the cake. In these areas, Mirabelle stands alone.

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