Raj Vaidya of Restaurant Daniel on French classics – Wine & Spirits Magazine

Raj Vaidya of Restaurant Daniel on French classics


Ray Vaidya joined Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant in the spring of 2009. Prior to that, he’d worked at Cru and Per Se in New York, as well as Gary Danko in San Francisco and Seeger’s in Atlanta. He manages a team of four sommeliers and a list of 2,800 selections, mostly French, with a view of the New York from the top.

Chablis über alles

There are three pages of Chablis on our list. The bulk of what has been selling has been lower priced. That top wine [from Joseph Drouhin] is a blended premier cru. I tasted it in France a few years ago and added it. We went through a lot of the 2012 and the 2011.

Haut Sancerre

A lot of people come to Daniel with a mindset to spend more money, not less. By putting a Sancerre on for more than $100, it flies. [The 2014 Vacheron was his second-best seller at $115.] Vacheron wines are less about sauvignon blanc and more about minerality. I hadn’t thought of how they might take the place of Chablis.

If you give people the choice between Sancerre and Chablis, they’ll likely choose Sancerre. We do well with Cotat, with eight or nine different bottlings between the two Cotats—they go back to 2008. We list just the one bottling of Vacheron. I like his entry-level more than the wines he has exposed to oak. I have too much fancy Burgundy aging in the cellar to start aging Sancerre. A $200 Sancerre is pushing it for my customers.

Biggest new success: 1997 Potensac

It’s not a grand château, not a complex wine, but it’s priced in a sweet spot [$100/bottle]. We picked up a ton of cases and blew through it. A big part of the sales were private dining; that’s true for the Vacheron as well.

Francophilia

I never go through and actually count, but I’d say our list is 75 to 80 percent French. People do buy American wine. Where we sell California wine is to European tourists, and those numbers may be down because the dollar is so strong. But most people come here to drink French wine. New Yorkers come in and they want Burgundy, which is good because I have lots of it.

If he were dining at Daniel tonight…

We have an awesome St. Pierre steamed en papillote with black truffles. And I would probably drink red Burgundy. I just got in these village-level Volnays from Lafarge from 1990—superb, in great shape. That’s what I’d be in the mood for.

is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.