Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


No Room for Mediocrity

The other day, I participated in a tasting of Madeira dating back to the 1900 vintage. This was an event that I helped put together for the fine folks at Polaner Selections, where I work. Following the tasting, a friend and I planned to catch up over some snacks and wine... but in midtown Manhattan at 4:30pm, pickin's can be slim. We headed up to the Time Warner Center, where he had yet to visit, and took a booth at Landmarc. I had certainly read my share of less-than-positive comments about the place (it has over-reached in replicating its smaller downtown location; the wine list, while well priced, is pretty boring), but I figured it couldn't be THAT bad... and, in truth, it wasn't - but it wasn't that good either.

We spent an hour-plus chatting over burnt bread, decent bone marrow, and sweetbreads with a thick and tasty sauce. Our wine was an incredibly uninspired Gigondas from 2003, which was flat and lacking in acidity (a problem that year in the Rhone). The service was accommodating and pleasant, but, ultimately preoccupied with their own vanity. All in all, we agreed that we were glad to have had the experience for ourselves, but given the opportunity, neither of us would be returning. Afterwards, we headed down to 24th street to check out the new, nearly SRO bar, El Quinto Pino, opened by the Tía Pol team...

To our delight, they had a tiny space for the two of us to perch, while we enjoyed some dry sherry and cold tapas (white anchovies, pig ear salad). We saw that they offered the 1999 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza (one of the few remaining Rioja traditionalists) by the half bottle. We got some garbanzo beans and spinach as well as some shrimp and garlic, and enjoyed the beautiful wine and great lively atmosphere of the small, bright room. With a genuine and engaging staff, a cool but tiny wine list, and yummy small plates, El Quinto Pino saved the day.