Elsewhere and Wine Director Sarah Sutel

Do you remember Le Madeleine, right next to that really romantic looking Westside Theatre practically on the corner of 43rd St in the theater district?  I do, because other than the Batali Restaurant Esca, right across the street from the recently opened Elsewhere Restaurant (now in Le Madeleine space), "there's not much more than thai shops, mexican joints, shitty bodegas and Le Bernardin."  Sara Sutel, wine director at Elsewhere is very direct.  Her New York vernacular could possibly even be just as interesting as her wine list.

Loved the Puech Noble by Rene Rostaing (left), Massy and Sarah Sutel with the other love, Marcel Lapierre Beaujolais (right)
 If you haven't already noticed from my blog, when I go out to restaurants, I'm not chasing chefs.  Of course food is extremely important to me, but I can cook at home.  I don't make wine in my apartment.  So before I go to any restaurant I'm always looking at the wine list, making sure that there's something either different, amazing, well-priced, and at best all of the above.

Beautiful blue light photo of wine by Gabriela Canedo (left), Sarah Sutel and her staff as Elsewhere (right)
 Sarah Sutel, she is my kind of wine director, and I smiled inside and out while interviewing her. "I don't serve crap.  Crap is junk juice.  Yellowtail, mass-produced.  Don't know the farmer, who the winemaker is. . . I wouldn't serve it if I wouldn't drink it."  Love her and her wine list.

 The international wine list boasts about 150 bottles, not to mention wine on tap, like Saintsbury Chardonnay.  "That juice stays expensive in the keg," Sarah says.  "Kegs keep them fresh . . .no maderizing, no corking, not bad bottles, no threat of spoilage. . ." and my favorite quote about her two whites and two reds by the glass on tap, "They move like gangbusters."

Wine Director Sarah Sutel of Elsewhere training staff about beer on tap (left), "Don't Let This Wine Intimidate You" Sarah's flight program
As foot down as Sarah comes off with her opinion about wine and her program, she is also very reactive and thoughtful to her clientele's needs.  "They love red wine, with shrimp, with oysters. . . Even in the dog days of July and August they want Malbec.  I'm not the wine director who shoves what I think is right down customers' throats."  I noticed immediately that Sarah's wine menu sequences from wines by the glass directly into Reds by the bottle opposed to the more traditional succession of intro-ing with sparkling, then whites/roses and then reds.
She also has a great mix of small production wineries with big house names her clients will recognize and feel comfortable with.  Have you ever gone into a restaurant and looked over a wine list that read like hieroglyphics?  It can kind of ruin your game if you're not in the mood to spend too much time contemplating what you are going to eat and drink.  Sometimes you just don't have the head, let's say perhaps you're fighting with your loved one; let's say you're with your best friend who you haven't seen in years; let's say you're on a hot date and let's you say you couldn't give a shit, you just want to order fast, get it done and get right back into conversation. . . .Wine directors need to consider all these different possibilities.  Sarah's wine list is so well priced and so well thought-out that I guarantee you you wouldn't even have to call her over and you'd probably be more than pleased with your choice.  I don't hand these compliments out lightly.

Bennie, the man, looking as if he was actually considering a fair way to split this cheese plate into four portions
The cheese is always my favorite, but let's be honest, is that really enough for just four people?  Why are we always so shy when it comes to ordering cheese?  We should have ordered two of those things.  And thank you, I'm a fan of cheese automatically coming with accoutrements.  So in final, I will share my two favorite wines from out of the three we drank:
Marcel Lapierre, "Raisins Gaulois," Beaujolais (France) 2010 $40 -- This wine, served chilled, was such a hit.  Third generation producer, organic, relatively small production, you could taste how well made, clean and fresh it is.  We've actually gone to the store and bought some for the house.
Rene Rostaing, "Puech Noble" Rouge, (Languedoc, France) 2007 $64 -- Syrah is now high on my radar.  New world syrahs have pushed me away, but Rene Rostaing is no joke.  This blend is 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre.  I was going to describe the wine myself but then I read something unmatchable by The Rare Wine Company on line about R. Rostaing's Puech Noble: "Mature fruit but not over-ripe.  Elegant but not concentrated.  Expressive but subtle.  Hedonistic, but cerebral." 

Above all, no matter what restaurant you go to, who the chef is, who the wine director is . . . remember what's more important is being with those you love . . most restaurants are as good as you make them.
Massy and I (left), Gabriela and I (right) -- Gabriela took some of the photos used for this post.

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