Andrew Newlin honed his chops at Balthazar when he was a self-described groupie lurking in the cellar to absorb all he could from the late, great sommelier Chris Goodhart and then-new hire, Rebecca Banks. After a long stint uptown at Per Se, Newlin has taken the lessons he learned to another SoHo stalwart, Raoul’s, which was the cool kids’ hangout long before SoHo became a tourist draw. Now he manages the expectations of visitors and regulars with a list deep in classics from both sides of the pond, especially reds to meet that legendary steak au poivre head-on.
Blind tasting: there’s no substitute for getting your head out of what you think a particular wine is. That said, if I like a wine but it looks really cheap, then I might go with an alternative. If I bring a bottle that looks cheap over to a table and they are there to impress their friends, it’s not going to go over well. It’s just a reality of the human condition.
People go crazy for Bordeaux. I was always a Burgundy guy, but people want to drink Bordeaux.
You can find a lot of value in Bordeaux—a lot more than a lot of other places—and still get that name recognition. You can use second labels or off vintages and find great wines that people feel good about ordering. I think a lot of it is texture. People don’t talk about it a lot, but if a wine has nice texture to it, people tend to gravitate to it. What I like about the second labels besides the price, is that they always have everything you’re looking for; the only thing they don’t have is the concentration—but for $75, that’s fine.
I want the list to be really accessible for people who don’t know a lot about wine but know a little bit. So I like to have things people have heard of, like Margaux—and you can find Margauxs that aren’t so expensive. And a lot of people have the name recognition on a St-Emilion. I changed our wine list to say Right Bank/Left Bank because I wanted to add more Bordeaux, and a lot of people do ask, “What’s the difference between Right Bank and Left Bank?” We explain generally—one is more merlot and cabernet franc, one is more cabernet sauvignon-based. I think that people feel that merlot is for some reason inferior to cabernet sauvignon—I don’t know why; maybe because I saw Sideways—people think it doesn’t have the structure. Then you bring them a Pomerol and they say, ‘wow, that’s the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.’ I love Pomerol, we have lots—Le Gay, Rouget, La Port—and a Lalande de Pomerol by the glass that crushes it.
We’re in the Beaujolais trend right now; that replaced the Jura. Any time there’s an up-and-coming wine region that has a great sense of place that’s also very reminiscent of an already touted area, you feel like you’re drinking Burgundy and it’s accessible and cheaper and the staff is really into that kind of thing; they are drinking it. When you go to a restaurant and someone brings you something that they’ve been drinking, it’s exciting. I do have people coming in asking for Beaujolais. But we’ve gotten past the Nouveau thing, I think.
Tags 2019 Restaurant Poll