When a restaurant offers perfect glassware and perfect service--an extremely rare occurence--the wine-loving patron is almost prepared to overlook problems with the wine list itself.
At Ma Maison, glassware and service are near-perfect and these factors do help soothe feelings after seeing a wine list that is chosen more to impress wine connoisseurs than to provide good wine at fair prices. The prices, though not too high for the wines on a percentage basis, are still too much for the average patron.
The list itself has the requisite choices--fine white and red Burgundies, Rhones, a wide range of California wines--and then adds some surprises.
Among the serendipitous finds are Alsatian wines, an excellent Muscadet, a Cahors, and a handful of fairly old red wines (such as 1967 Chateau Haut-Brion at $165).
However, pricing is high. Not that you expect any bargains at a place like Ma Maison, but by using a standard markup that is close to three times wholesale, the price of most wines is well above $30.
The least expensive red wine, 1987 Saintsbury Garnet (listed as “Granit Vineyard”), is $21. The least expensive white is a simple Entre-Deux-Mers at $18. The least expensive sparkling wine is Louis Roederer nonvintage Brut at $37. I was not impressed by the house sparkling wine ($20), a Blanc de Blancs that tasted clumsy.
This is a true French wine connoisseur’s list and includes some names that only a wine maven would know (names like Durup, Dubreuil Fontaine, Leroy). There are also some names I am unfamiliar with and are not listed in my reference works. Moreover, the list has no Italian wines, no German wines, no Australian wines, and no wines from Oregon or Washington.
The California list is unimaginative and the range of styles offered is limited. Also, there is no Zinfandel and just one Pinot Noir and one Merlot.
However, the service we had was exceptional, knowledgeable and friendly. And the wine we ordered, a 1987 Beaujolais Villages from George Duboeuf ($22), was brought to the table at the proper cellar temperature. Then the waiter asked if we wanted it placed in an ice bucket for a slight chilling.
The wine program is the work of Patrick Terrail, who has plans to improve the list. Today I’d term it a fine first effort. Knowing of plans by all six American Sofitel hotels to offer premium wine lists, I expect this one to improve.