L&N Winebar & Bistro sells flights of wine from their roughly 50 bottle selection of nitrogen-preserved wines-by-the-glass. The bar is comfortable and the staff, top to bottom, is among the most knowledgeable in town. So, just for fun, tonight I walked in and challenged Rick, the bartender on duty: set me up a memorable three-wine flight. Surprise me. Give it a theme if you like. Tell me a story, teach me a lesson, whatever.
Rick took the challenge seriously. He turned and looked thoughtfully at their long wall of wines. He took a few minutes before he started pouring. I watched. I couldn’t see the bottles or labels. A white wine. Then another white. Then another. Huh? Ask a guy to show off and he pours three whites?
Rieslings, Rick said as he set three glasses in front of me.
“Dry to sweet,” he said. “Simple to complex.”
Here’s what he set up:
Gobelsburger Riesling 2007, from Austria. It was pale white and almost not present. Light nose. A little lemon, a little apple maybe. Not much of anything, bone dry like a Sauvignon Blanc. (Did I mention that in summer eveything tastes like Sauvignon Blanc to me?) Long, tart finish.
Furst Riesling 2006 from Alsace, the least French of French appellations. In isolation, the Furst is not as generous as a lot of Alsatians. But this is not wine in isolation; it’s wine in a flight designed to get from here to there in an interesting way. The color is darker — pale gold — and the the nose is pure honey. The flavor is honey, too. Dark, old honey, but without a touch of sweet. The distance from the Gobelsburger to the Furst is considerable, but Riesling has more range than any other grape.
Gymnasium Graacher Himmelreich 2007. OK, on the dry-to-sweet Riesling continuum this Kabinett isn’t doing much more than leaning sweet. But it’s the show-off Riesling on L&N’s ever-changing list of wines by the glass. Petrol nose. Honey. Just a touch of sweet, well balanced by acidity. Refreshing, round, smooth, a mouthful in an entirely different way than either of the previous drinks, with a long, meandering finish that seems to go from sweet to tart and then back to sweet again.
The flight was 13 bucks. It was educational and enlightening and fun. All three wines were solid, even if they weren’t rock stars. Rick left me alone to taste in silence, and when I was done he listened to me as if I knew what I was talking about, gently filling in the blanks when my ignorance cried for attention.
L&N’s list isn’t the best in town. Len Stevens, who co-owns the place and picks the wine, has a very different palate than mine. But credit where credit is due: there is no place in Lousville more serious about wine than L&N. The restaurant’s corporate culture is experimental and exploratory. On slow nights, the staff can be seen trying new combinations of food and wine, talking seriously, thinking hard. The whole staff gathers on Saturdays to learn and explore. The result is that L&N is the best place in town to walk into and ask whoever’s behind the bar to give it their best shot. They’ll surprise you every time.