I’ve only been there once, but thought the wine pairing was fabulous. No, it’s not a great deal when you look at the price of each wine. And, no, they are not all world class wines on their own. But at least on my one visit they paired spectacularly well with the food, which to me is more important when having the type of dining experience that Alinea offers than the individual standalone merits of the wine. (Bern’s would be the opposite I suppose). Despite an aversion to over the top Aussie bombs, I will never forget how divinely well a Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Grenache went with an Elysian Fields lamb tenderloin dish. The wine was almost like a framboise eau de vie, but it simply worked. And to Hardy’s point, you’re not going to be able to go with a few bottles and do anything close to justice on some of the more out there courses.
Looking back at some of my notes (no detailed notes on the wines, but enough to give you a feel for the pairing), here were a couple other standouts:
BROOK TROUT ROE - corn, Blis maple syrup
Wine Pairing: Domaine du Viking Vouvray “Tendre”, Loire, 1990
Trout roe literally wrapped in maple syrup (the orange in the middle), delicious kernels of sweet yellow corn floating in the corn foam, a touch of sage adding wisdom to the salty and sweetness. Old and “funky” vouvray matched wits perfectly. Amazing how the flavors pulled at each other and came together. The corn in fact is what made it sing. And then the vouvray turned up the volume.
LOBSTER - parsnip, orange, hyacinth vapor
Wine Pairing: Weinbach Pinot Gris “Cuvee Laurence”, Alsace, 2005
A truly artful composition in colors, flavors, textures, contrasts, aromas. Hot hyacinth water was poured over hyacinth flowers in the bottom dish, releasing a rose-like fragrance into the air. Poached lobster melded with orange pate de fruit, fennel pollen, lobster roe, lobster custard, “puffed” lobster curlicues, and a crunch of jicama. A masterpiece. A mighty meeting of many things. And the pinot gris? What could go better?