The Wine List

Almost everything on this eight-page, 125-bottle wine list is good. Some of it is great. And despite the daunting overhead--platoons of waiters and thick romantic atmosphere don't come cheap--some wines are even well-priced. It's a joy to see 1989 Cakebread Chardonnay at $22 (just about retail), 1989 Mondavi Fume Blanc at $17, 1985 Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon at $22 and 1987 Piper-Sonoma Brut at $25.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the rest of this list has prices so high you can't help looking twice to see if there's a misprint. Consider the Mumm Cuvee Napa sparkling wine. Supermarket price: $9.95. Diaghilev price: $35.

The outstanding example of overpricing here, however, is 1986 Chappellet Chenin Blanc, a lovely white wine that sells for $7.50 in most retail stores. One small Southern California retail chain recently closed the wine out at $2.99. At Diaghilev, the wine is $28. Diaghilev's manager says the restaurant buys small quantities of wine and reprints its list almost every other week. This means that it would be a simple matter for the restaurant to lower its prices on wines that don't sell.

It also means that Diaghilev's customers have a good reason to resist the high prices and stick to the good values. After all, is there anybody who really wants to pay $78 more for a bottle of 1983 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame than the restaurant did?

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