Alinea - wine list or pairings?

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?

No, I would have ordered it in addition if it were!

And after all this it turns out that I messed up and won’t be going to Alinea after all. I only just realized that the dinner reservation was for 8/11, not 8/10 and I’ll be flying back home that day.

I’m bummed.

Change your flight.



From what I understand it is. Already at 21 “courses” and growing.


My take on the wine pairings is that they are hugely overpriced given what is included, but that they will indeed be nice pairings with the food courses if not great wines on their own. That said, my recollection was that the food courses were so small and disappeared so fast that most of my wine consumption that night was sipping with no food in front of me between the courses.

I decided on a 18 year old great rose Champage and then a 15 year old Richebourg - they worked fine with the courses (and in some cases were terrific matches) while leaving me with great wine to drink while talking and waiting for the next course…I have found that I quite like starting tasting menus with rose Champagne - always seems pretty flexible, particularly if it has a little age on it.