Saturday, May 30, 2009

Palm Springs Restaurant Week

Palm Springs Restaurant Week kicks off this Sunday, May 31 through Tuesday, June 9 in Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage. East valley eateries will fete their fare during the second half of the 20-day event on Wednesday, June 10 through Friday, June 19 in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio. In all, more than 100 participating area restaurants will offer special three-course $24 or $36 menus to entice their loyal fan base as well as diners eager to try new locales or cuisines at bargain prices.

We're going and hope you will too. Even though it's a food event, we cruised a few online wine lists to guide our picks. Our search left us wondering: When will wine service catch up with food service?

As with most restaurants nationwide, local wine lists group wines by traditional categories based on color, type, grape variety, region or country of origin. Only a handful of restaurants offer lists that engage customers to consider wines to match their dishes and preferred wine styles. These progressive wine lists offer diners intuitive, personalized ways to find wines they're apt to like by grouping wines according to flavors, texture and body.

Some restaurants use one-liners or tasting notes to cue diners in to a wine's flavor profile. We like these annotated wine lists too. In fact, we like anything that makes wine more approachable or that encourages diners to venture into new wine territories. Say you're a fan of Pinot Grigio. Chances are you'll also like a crisp Pinot Blanc from Oregon or perhaps Albarino from Spain. Do you prefer big, bold reds instead and default to Cabernet Sauvignon? Maybe it's time to discover the pleasures of a Washington State meritage, Spanish Rioja or a saucy Australian Shiraz.

Take a look at PF Chang's sample progressive wine list to see what we mean. Within each flavor profile category, lighter-bodied wines are listed first, then medium to fuller-bodied wines.

We discovered a cool listing designed by sommelier Kurt Kirschenman of Mistral, the restaurant at Loews Coronado Bay Resort during San Diego Restaurant Week. Last time we looked, Kirschenman listed region, appellation, vintage, producer, grape varietal(s), body, and for Chardonnays, level of oakiness. He may tweak his system some more, perhaps adding more flavor descriptors.

Copley's lists wines by types or varietals but adds a brief description to each one. Will you order your usual white wine or give an Alsatian Gewurztraminer listed as "a great foodie wine with flavors of lychee, rose petals and spice" a swirl instead? Casual Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro adds punchy tasting notes to their value-driven (and typo-laden) list of sparkling, red and white wines.

The list at Ace Hotel & Swim Club's Kings Highway & The Amigo Room shows how less can be more. Their eight whites are grouped as fresh, aromatic or earthy. The restaurant pegs ten reds into four categories: mild mannered and subtle, soft and fruity, fresh and spicy or powerful. Done.

If you'd rather flip through five pages of wines from ten Bordeaux appellations in search of 2000 Pomerol Chateau Petrus, Le Vallauris has your number (it's $10,500, btw). Eclectic tastes will find a bevy of wines listed at Zin American Bistro, where Mindy offers spot-on pairings. The 18-page list at Johannes caught our eye for its out-of-the-ordinary domestic selections as well as featured wines from Austria. Blaufränkisch, anyone?

Tell us about wine lists you like and why. We'll take a look at east valley wine lists next week. In the meantime, log onto Open Table and make your reservations.

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