Having been to Eleven Madison Park on several occasions, I never hesitate to recommend the restaurant to friends and family alike, whether they are looking for a special occasion night out or a simple dinner. It is easy to argue that Eleven Madison Park is New York's top restaurant, a position I am happy to take and defend if need be.
Eleven Madison Park is in one way a fairly typical New York City restaurant. People who live here in the city may tend to think of it as a hard to get reservation spot in their favorite neighborhood. The truth is that for most people, an evening at Eleven Madison Park is going to be a special occasion. Following on that theme for a moment, for most people, a special occasion bottle of wine should run right around the price of dinner for one.
Eleven Madison Park's menu is a four course Prix Fixe which comes in at $125 for dinner. Using this price, I've taken a look at the wine list to see how good a job has been done peppering the list with drinkable gems at all price points. In particular, I looked for wines under $125.
As I've said before, it's easy to build a list of great wines. All it takes is money. To build a great wine list, one needs to consider many factors to accommodate all guests: the food, the clientele, simple tenets of hospitality.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
At the top end of the spectrum, Eleven Madison Park is bursting with gems. From famous names like Roulot, Raveneau, Dagueneau, Monfortino, Colgin and Lafite, wines at top dollar are not in short supply. While many of these wines are priced in the thousands, not all represent poor value. In fact, many are priced nearly at the high end of the retail market, making them very good value considering the service that's included and the implied guarantee of quality one is assured when dining in a top quality establishment such as Eleven Madison Park.
Having said that, I have to say that I am really never looking at a wine list with my eye on these sorts of gems. It's the value gems that make me sit up and take notice. While Eleven Madison Park's list is voluminous, a thorough search of its listings can be quite rewarding.
With such a big list it's not surprising to find some real strength in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne, but what I like about this list is its relative breadth once one moves away from the centers of depth.
Austria, for example, is well represented, with a number of affordable and well chosen selection, not only for Grüner Veltliner but also Riesling. This is partly due to the sheer size of this list, which has an ample selection of German Rieslings as well. Being able to stock so many wines gives a wine director the latitude to include favorite wines that might fall outside of many people's expectations.
The Austrian Rieslings on the list are both recent vintage, which I find interesting, considering the two best deals in Grüner Veltliner are both from 2006. I would have expected less turnover with the Rieslings, but it appears John Ragan, Eleven Madison Park's wine director knows his clientele.
Jäger, Steinriegl , Federspiel 2009 $50
Nigl, Privat, Pellingen 2009 $105
Stadt Krems, Wachtberg 2006 $80
Rudi Pichler, Wösendorfer Kirchweg, Smaragd 2006 $95
Since we're talking about wines that fly a bit under the radar, I should add that Albert Boxler's 2008 Riesling Sommerberg Eckberg at $105 is another fabulous reason to go with Riesling here, though with so many unusual choices, you might be forgiven if you start with one or more unusual whites that are available.
Consider the mini verticals of the Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium 2007 ($60), 2008 ($55) and 2009 ($55), or Domain Rulot straight Bourgogne Blanc 2006 ($70), 2008 ($65) and 2009 ($75).
Those are great values, but if your tastes run to the more eclectic, consider either the 2010 Gurrutxaga Bizkaiko Txakolina ($55) or the 2007 Jacques Puffeney Cuvée Sacha Arbois ($60). Both wines are very food friendly and a little surprising, which make them not only good matches for the food at Eleven Madison Park, but consistent with the theme and vibe of the restaurant.