In the Emerald City, Hotel 1000 may be the hotel that understands wine best.
Its wine flights and urban bites program, found in the high-end Boka Kitchen and Bar and hip Studio 1000, caters to clientele who enjoy small bites and wines from new winemakers. Both restaurants sit just off the swanky lobby and each offers a very good vibe and feel. If you make it to Seattle, this is the place to go for a great wine experience.
NEW YORK CITY
Buyers beware: if you head to New York City and want to have wine at Craftsteak, you're better gambling at its Las Vegas outpost. The wine prices in Las Vegas are far more down to earth than they are at the New York original.
Candidly, the pricing of wines in New York City at a few places shows what the devalued dollar means. More importantly, the high prices of wine are really being driven by the fact that the Empire City is awash with foreign tourists who are buying everything with a cheap dollar, and the top wine and dine spots are able to charge higher than normal prices.
In Philadelphia recently, it was great to see how much the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) movement has progressed since the early 1990s. The BYOB-only establishments are full every night. The price of food is slightly higher, but the quality is there. Many offer market fresh menus.
Value priced menus similar to the Menu-Carte concept used in Paris - with meals priced between $45 to 65 a person for three courses and dessert - are usually offered Monday through Thursday.
The proliferation of BYOB - only establishments has forced the licensed establishments to allow customers to bring wine in and also to reduce their corkage fees to compete. Some have even chosen to eliminate them for regulars.
Even as a first-time diner at Matyson on South 19th Street in Philadelphia, I was able to bring in two excellent wines purchased around the corner at the Wine and Spirits store. The word corkage never arose. The food was as good as it is at Del Mar's own Market or Arterra, the wine service and glassware were top shelf and the atmosphere was warm and friendly.
A recent tasting of the wines of the famed Gaja winery at Eli's Wine and Spirits in the Del Mar Highlands Shopping Center received rave reviews from friends who attended. Eli has agreed to hold a special tasting for a few wine fanatics and me.
I'm auctioning off that tasting to two lucky readers, with the donation going to the charity of Eli's choice. To be considered, e-mail Andy Abramson at