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THE WINE LIST

A lot of work went into assembling the wine list at Gardens. This energetic 32-page list has much to recommend it in quantity and in quality, though not much in the way of pricing.

The range is huge: 75 Cabernet Sauvignons, more than 50 Chardonnays (and two dozen white Burgundies), wines from the Loire and the Rhone, a block of red Burgundies, a handful of Zinfandels and Merlots and even 21 wines in half-bottles.

Service is excellent, and the lovely crystal glassware enhances the dining experience. Dessert-wine and brandy lovers will find much to like here, too, including a wide array of ports, sherries, grappas, Cognacs, Armagnacs and fruit liqueurs available by the glass at fair prices.

However, as at many hotel restaurants, prices are awfully steep for wines that are not rarities at all, wines that are easily found in stores. Their prices are more than double retail--at a time when stores are heavily discounting many wines.

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Take, for example, 1989 Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay. Its suggested retail price is $14.75, usually discounted to $12. Here it’s $34. Some wines are priced so high one wonders what sort of formula was used. The 1989 Sterling Sauvignon Blanc, which retails for about $9 but which is on at least one shop shelf at $4.99, is $24 here.

The half-bottles are priced high, too. A full bottle of the 1989 Mondavi Fume Blanc sells around town for less than $7 in many locations. A half- bottle of this wine is on the Four Seasons wine list at $18--a full 4 1/2 times its retail cost.


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