The food was fantastic as was the wine list. There were so many interesting wines to choose from that it was difficult to order. All was in place for a great wine evening and the Riedels on the table sparkled in anticipation of delights soon to pass from their lips to ours. The evening started with the sublime Champagne, Pierre Gimmonet, Blanc de blancs 1er Cru, Cuvée Gastronome, 2002, which is creamy, toasty and complex with a finish that just won't quit. It was paired with an assortment of pristine Puget Sound oysters and it was such a magical interplay that it only sharpened our palates for the wine and food yet to come.
The impending arrival of our next courses called for red wine and the Chénas, Vieilles Vignes de 1939, Pascal Aufranc, 2005 arrived at the table and was poured only to be met with tepid enthusiasm. That tepid response was caused by the temperature of the wine, not the wine itself. Once again a restaurant that was flying all the flags of a serious wine restaurant ignored one of the most basic requirement for serving a fine wine. Our Chénas had to be almost 75 degrees. What was an elegant, beautiful wine had been turned into a mushy, cooked hot alcoholic brew. We summoned an ice bucket and actually poured our glasses back into the bottle to try to save what we could of this wine, but, while the buckets chill dramatically improved the wine after ten minutes, putting a natural wine through this kind of roller coaster will not bring out the best in a wine.
Hot restaurants serving hot red wines is a ridiculously common occurrence. They spend and spend on the accoutrements of fine wine, but then ignore one of the basics of wine service: temperature. Proper serving temperature for most red wines is in the 60's, not the 70's, and it's better to error on the side of cooler rather than warmer. I am amazed how many times I've had a sommelier rave about this or that obscure producer only to pour a lukewarm wine into a glass that costs more than the wine. A restaurant that does not make the effort to serve their wines at the proper temperature cannot be considered to have a serious wine program. This also applies to their wine-by-the-glass programs where half-empty bottles languish on the back bar no matter the balmy ambient temperature.
America is the country where we serve red wines too warm and white wines too cold.