Best ever explanation for out of stock on a wine list (long)

“I’m sorry. My mom was getting into it, so I had to hide the rest and now I can’t find it.”

This can only be Conundrum Wine Bistro in Freeport, Maine. My first dinner there this year, and a chance to explore the new btg&hg (by the glass and half glass) list. I was somewhat bottom-feeding on the glass list and got what I ordered and deserved (with one exception).

The wine under discussion was 1994 Sandeman Vintage Port (obviously at the end of the evening). I had to settle for the 2000.

The food as usual was great. The menu looks standard and eclectic, but the quality way over-delivers. If Michelin ever gets around to Maine, this would be a candidate for a star, otherwise an easy shoe-in for a ‘bib gourmand’. Sally had blackened salmon, cooked to perfection with excellent lumpy mashed potatos and barely cooked, deep green fresh seasoned spinach. My white pesto pizza with chorizo was outstanding, with artisanal local cheeses, not industrial mozzarella.

If you go to Maine and you love wine, you need to go here!

The wine list has been sadly out of date for a decade (Vinnie hasn’t changed it for much longer than that); it’s gotten worse. Essentially, you ignore it (except for the 40 wines btg).

Here is how you buy wine by the bottle:
1st: Tell Vinnie you want to go to the wine room.
2nd: Tell Vinnie roughly what kind of wine you want, at what price.
3rd: Watch Vinnie root around and dumpster dive.
4th: Watch Vinnie haul out bottles and quote prices.
5th: Go to the table with your choice in amazement and delight.

Here’s what I drank, all about $5 by the ½ glass (supposedly 2 ½ ounces, actually mostly a good bit more). Prices from memory; I’m probably a buck or two low on one or more of them:

I started with a dubious 2014 Clambake Mendocino Chardonnay. A nicely packaged negociant bottling, this was unoaked and pleasant but rather dilute. Rated 83.

Next came a shockingly bad 2016 Aruma Malbec. This joint venture between Rothschild and Catena had a leathery aroma with some fruit and flowers underneath. The flavors were muted and a little stewed, the fruit was not completely clean. It improved over time, but I almost sent it back. The first glass poured from a new bottle had a ton of sludge at the bottom. Something is seriously wrong here. Rated 73.

And, and at last, a fine glass of 2014 Clayhouse Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, Red Cedar Vineyard, Old Vines. The aromas were more polite than pungent, with black fruit and both earth and minerals, not what expected for this varietal, but the glass had excellent balance, surprising refinement, a light but solid and satisfying texture and a long, intricate finish. Rated 89 – 90, I’d never heard of this and very pleased to make its acquaintance.

The glass (3+ ounces) of 2000 Sandeman was $15. It was beautiful, freshly herbal, only slightly sweet, with lovely balance and alcohol still cleverly hidden. Rated 91.

Dan Kravitz

Thanks for the tip, Dan! We stay at the Harraseeket in Freeport a couple of weekends a year, and never venture very far from there to dine, preferring to be within walking distance. However, the lure of good wine will certainly change that - I look forward to checking it out. Great notes; thanks!

Maybe if they’re having problems with family members drinking the good stuff, they can leave decoy bottles out that will distract them. Animal trainers call this a ‘displacement’ routine.

We have a ‘squeaky piggy’ toy that accomplishes the same goal with our dog too.