I revisited Cookshop last night for Wife's birthday. We were being taken out so, when I was asked for a suggestion, it seemed the way to go because the prices at Cookshop are fair, the food is quite good, and the restaurant subscribes to the local farmer philosophy Wife and I hold so dear. On this visit, though, I truly came to appreciate something I had only noted in passing on my first visit: Cookshop has an exceptional wine list.
When someone hands you a wine list and you are a guest, it is always awkward to find exactly the right thing. You don't want to volunteer too much of their money, but there is also the temptation to finally try the '45 Petrus. Last night, there was also the fact that this particular host tends to drink huge Aussie Shiraz fruit-bombs, wines that I don't tend to love with food. Situations like this cause me to really scrutinize a wine list, seeking the gem that meets all the various requirements. The Cookshop wine list not only stood up to the examination, it excelled and actually pleased.
I have recently been very hot for Spanish wines (they are just seeming more authentic to me then a lot of the rest of the world's these days) so, while poring over the list for a red, which I was directed to choose, I found a Granacha that tickled me. Granacha (granache, connonau) usually strikes me as a food-friendly varietal, and one that often benefits from an association with roasted meats.
Cookshop definitely excels at roasted meats, between their awesome conical rotisserie and their wood-burning oven, so it seemed a safe way to go. This bottle then fulfilled my added requirements by being the cheapest red on the list, as well as being fairly fruity without overdoing it. My task accomplished, I went back to the list to be sure I wasn't missing any other gems, and it occurred to me I was indeed missing gems, lots of them.
The genius behind the Cookshop wine list is Rebecca Foster, and boy has she put together an exceptional program. It is not presumptuous and hers is definitely not a list to seek out a huge collection of 100 point magazine wines on. It is, however, honest. You can tell right away that each bottle on the list was chosen with care. The wines on it that are famous names are only familiar because they are honored as great, the greatest of their type, '97 Quintarelli Valpoliccella, for example.
A food-friendly wine list must have Bordeaux, and this one has four: a Graves, a Pommerol, a St. Estephe and a Fronsac, a nice sampling of the areas where some value can still be found. From there, the wines of the food-eating world open up, and everything from Slovenian wines to Chilean are represented. In a simple list of about fifty red bottles, Rebecca offers a very good sampling of all the places people are serious about making interesting, authentic wines.
The average wine at Cookshop costs probably about $40, with prices ranging from my $26 Spanish pick up to a '98 Mascerello Borolo for $173. The prices also seem very fair, in that I could easily see myself spending 10% more or less for all the bottles on there that I am familiar with, without reacting dramatically either way.
On the whole, I think Rebecca has put together an awesome list. Above all it seems planned to be an extension of the food, and the restaurant’s philosophy. It is not there as a great way to make money, nor is there to attract magazine readers with a hit list, but simply exists to compliment the great job the folks in the kitchen are doing. It really is the best new wine list I have seen this year.