EDITOR'S NOTE—Vintage Fall Out


There are two wines in the tastings for this issue that I hope to remember for years to come. Both are from the 2008 vintage, one from an unusually cool season in the arid Douro Valley, another from a troubled year in the damp of Burgundy.
     The Douro wine is Dirk Niepoort’s Charme, an interpretation of the ancient mixed plantings in Vale Mendiz—one that reflects Niepoort’s fascination with the expressive nature of Burgundy and the potential for subtlety in the wines of a land known for Port. The delicate, almost ethereal beauty of Charme looks to the future of the Douro.
     The Burgundy comes from Anne-Claude Leflaive and Eric Remy, who had to coach Domaine Leflaive’s vines through bouts with mildew in 2008. Their work paid off when the stormy season passed and a north wind cleared the skies on the 14th of September. The sunny weather that followed ripened their chardonnay, winds concentrated its acidity and six sorters selected out the rot. There are, in fact, many great 2008 white Burgundies, especially from well-drained hillsides. What sets Domaine Leflaive’s Chevalier-Montrachet apart is its energy, something everyone noticed when we tasted it blind for this issue. When I tasted it again, on the afternoon of the tenth anniversary of La Paulée in New York, I was in a crowded room in a huddle near Remy’s table, a circle with sommelier Christie Dufault, writer Jordan Mackay and vintner Larry Stone, all of us focused on the wine—a cone of silence moment. At least in my memory, the wine had the power to silence all the noise around it.

The 2008 season did not end well in New York, where the financial storms of the spring and summer gathered force over lower Manhattan in September. For many, the skies have yet to clear. But after two years of turmoil, there are some positive signs, including a number of new restaurants opening around the city. At the high end, they are not the kind of places overtly designed to celebrate a Wall Street bonus, though they will happily engage a hedge-fund tycoon with a serious focus on food and wine. And there’s a lot of creative energy going into a host of new, affordable places, from noodle shops to Austrian heurige. Senior editor Tara Q. Thomas has been tracking the openings while associate editor Chris Hallowell has been closely watching the revolution in cocktail bars. They assigned all of us on the editorial staff to visit as many new restaurants and bars as our time and appetites allowed, and we present the most notable on page 20.
     Our other assignment, in both the east and west coast offices, was to speak with sommeliers in the most popular dining rooms across the country about trends we found in our 22nd Annual Restaurant Poll. The results show a world transformed by the storms of 2008. Sommeliers see signs of a recovery as more guests choose to treat themselves to better bottles. And, as it turns out, the diversity of their choices may surprise you.