AN INTERESTING new restaurant has opened in Washington with all American wines -- and what wines! Every vintage of Chalone's chardonnay and pinot noir, for instance, from 1960. Hanzell pinot noir from 1963 to 1981. Beaulieu Vineyards Private Reserve from 1935, 1957, 1958 and 1960. Also Ridge's Monte Bello cabernet, '76; Inglenook's "Cask F29" '66; Mayacamus cabernet, '68-'82; an entire vertical selection of Stoney Hill's justly famous chardonnay and gewurztraminer and every vintage for Heitz Martha's Vineyard cab from 1966.
The restaurant, called Chardonnay, is in the new Park Terrace Hotel. It is managed by the same company that manages the Bostonian Hotel's Seasons restaurant, with a highly touted wine cellar. The food and beverage director of Chardonnay, William Anderson, obtained many of the winesmentioned above at auctions and estate sales in Napa and Sonoma counties. They are not cheap, but neither are they as expensive as they might be, considering their rarity.
The important thing is
that they are available in
Washington, along with an
impressive selection of
more recent vintages
that also includes the
names Mayacamus, Sonoma-Cutrer, Carneros
Creek, Dunn, Far Niente,
Duckhorn, Jordan, Phelps, Acacia, Grgich Hills, Ch.ateau Montelena, Ch.ateau St. Jean, Quail Ridge and Schramsberg.
Even more important is Chardonnay's wine-pricing system. All the prices, except those on the rarest bottles, represent a "one-time mark-up," meaning that the cost of acquisition for the restaurant is simply doubled -- a revolutionary approach in this town, where wine in restaurants is routinely marked up threeand four times.
The restaurant, Anderson says, "is flying through wine at these prices, even the higher priced wines."
When Chardonnay opened, the spectacle of an all-American wine list caused some ripples. "People said, 'What do you mean, you don't have any French wines?' Now they say, 'I've heard of Chalone. Let's try it.' We've turned some French wine maniacs into enthusiasts for American wine, and for me that's it. I love to see wine drinkers discover something new and exciting."
A bottle of Chalone Central Coast chardonnay from the '84 vintage costs $35 (the Reserve is $95), not cheap but no higher than many inferior chardonnays on many a Washington wine list. The Chappellet '83 is only $15, and the Sonoma-Cutrer '83 is $19 -- a steal.
Anderson is also putting together an unusual selection of larger bottles, including magnums, imperials or jeroboams of wines like Ch.ateau St. Jean's chardonnay from the Robert Young vineyard, Sonoma-Cutrer's Les Pierres and Mayacamus' '73 cabernet sauvignon.
"Good value is important to me," Anderson adds. "Many restaurateurs are being pretentious, charging $20 for a $3 bottle of beaujolais. You can't take a high percentage to the bank. I would rather sell 100 cases at 100 percent profit than 10 cases at a 300 percent markup."