People go to Bern’s for one of two reasons: The food or the wine. While the food is good, we went for the wine. A friend was celebrating his 50th birthday, and was looking forward to celebrating with interesting older wines. Naturally, we were there to help.
When we go out with friends, inevitably the wine list gets handed to me. Or FKGuy. Or to both of us with an exasperated “Ugh. You
handle this. You’re the wine geeks.” This time, we were with other wine geeks, so the wine duty fell firmly on birthday boy’s shoulders. But, I was sitting next to him so I got roped into the process.
In normal places, I would avoid the sommelier like the plague. However, the three that work at Bern’s have a vast knowledge, and I have a rather limited knowledge of wines from the 1950s and 1960s. So, we called over Eric to assist. Birthday Boy had communicated with him prior to our arrival, so he didn’t even seem to notice or collective geekiness.
We started with a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar, with a rather pathetic tour. Last time I was there, I had already had plenty of wine by the time we toured the wine cellar, and I got yelled at for touching the bottles. This time we toured first and there was no yelling. We settled in at our table and started with a bottle of non-vintage Bollinger Champagne, which was a good way to kick off the festivities.
We had quite a lineup of wine, including:
1962 Prince Florent de Merode Pommard Clos de la Platière, which was truly amazing. A fifty year old
burgundy that had good structure and a wonderful, fruity palate. I was amazed the fruit was still so pronounced. This was possibly my favorite wine of the night.
1955 Chateau Lafon Rochet. The high point of the evening was as we were tasting this wine, and it was outstanding – earthy and barnyard-y, one of our friends at the dinner said “I don’t like these barnyard-y wines. I just don’t want my wine to taste like sh*t.” Well, when you put it like that it is hard to argue. But the wine, barnyard flavors and all, was spectacular.
1993 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero di Castiglione Falletto. This is a beautiful wine. It seemed very young, which is not all that surprising considering the Bern’s cellar is a very cold 50 degrees. (“Normal” temperature for a wine cellar is 56-57 degrees, so when it is colder the wine will age slower). I love, love, love this floral, fruity wine.
1992 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard. This is a big wine, that frankly I just don’t get. It is fine, and tastes
good, but there is nothing intersting to me about it. It is a big, bold, hit-you-in-the-face kind of wine. Would I drink it again? Sure, if (a) someone else is paying. It is certainly not worth it’s price tag, and (b) if there were no other good wine choices.
Before I get to the dessert, I’ll say this about the food: it is very good. They have typical steak house fare, but their onion rings are spectacular. I could eat those every day. Kudos to the kitchen guy who slices what seems like a billion pounds of onions every single day.
When w finished dinner, we went up to the dessert room, which is really a series of dark, small, intimate rooms. Well, ours held about twelve people, so not really all that intimate, but whatever… we proceeded to order dessert, not that I had room for one more morsel, and yet another bottle of wine. This time it was the 1954 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Viña Real Reserva Especial. This was made by a cooperative in Spain, and I could not believe it was a 58 year old wine. It was delicious and refined, and probably not the best choice to go with macadamia nut sundaes. Nonetheless, it was a great way to end the meal.
We arrived at Bern’s for our 8 PM reservation, ate, drank and had a great time until about 1 AM. It was outrageously expensive, but a totally worthwhile destination for an event.