The magical interplay between food and wine when brilliantly executed can be a memorable experience.
Arezou Soleimani and Lauren O’Leary are passionate wine enthusiasts and foodies who took great care in developing the wine list for the new Prime Table Steakhouse in Lincoln Center with the hope of delivering a memorable food and wine experience.
Soleimani is the beverage director at Prime Table and Market Tavern, also in Lincoln Center, and O’Leary is owner of Nipote Wine Imports and a wine educator and restaurant consultant. They spent some nine months compiling Prime Table’s wine list, which includes several domestic and international selections to go with the restaurant’s steak, prime rib, salmon and vegetarian entrée selections.
Prime Table offers wines by the glass, half-bottle and full-bottle formats from familiar regions in California, including Lodi, Napa and Sonoma, as well as imports from Italy, France, Spain and Argentina — wines not commonly offered on area restaurant wine lists.
“The goal with such a strong international wine list as this is to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone when it comes to wine,” Soleimani said. “The goal is to get people to start a conversation about wine and understand that there is more to life than a rib eye and a Napa cab.”
Soleimani and O’Leary enjoy exposing people to something unexpected; blowing their minds with wines they’ve never tried or ever heard of before. They want to challenge their diners without being pretentious or intimidating. Wine should be enjoyed, they said, not stressed over.
“We don’t want to be those people who talk down to a table and they are intimidated,” said Soleimani, who used to work at Papapavlo’s restaurant in Lincoln Center. “Our service here is so approachable that anybody can pull us out and talk to a table about some different stuff.”
For instance, Soleimani might suggest the Doña Paula Estate, Torrontès, Valle de Cafayate, Salta, Argentina, 2011 ($32, full bottle) as an aperitif or with Prime Table’s French onion soup, griddled thick-cut bacon or wild shrimp cocktail instead of chardonnay, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. Foods with fat, like the griddled thick-cut bacon, or salinity, such as the shrimp cocktail or most any type of seafood, pair well with Torrontès, the most popular white wine in Argentina. Grown at a higher altitude, this light-gold colored wine from the Salta region has medium-high acidity, minerality, tropical fruit, such as lychee and pineapple, floral perfume and a hint of petrol, similar to Riesling.
“For me, the hopes of bringing on a wine like this in a city like Stockton is wine education,” O’Leary said. “We could definitely say there are some serious wine drinkers in Stockton, but to get people to open up their palates and minds to something like this is the end-all goal for me.”
The Chateau Teyessier, Pezat, Bordeaux Superieur, 2012 ($45, full bottle) is an entry-level Bordeaux at an approachable price point. This is the style of red wine Soleimani drank when visiting family in the South of France. Classic terroir-driven, earthy mushroom nose with blue fruit, plums, anise and a hint of French oak. It’s a nice alternative to cabernet sauvignon or merlot with red meat.
“This was the approachable import that both of us were hoping to put on a wine list like this,” Soleimani said. “People who are going to take a risk on a $45 bottle of Bordeaux, I would think, wouldn’t be disappointed by this.”
Among the big hitters on the list, The Arena, Amarone DOCG, 2008 ($75, full bottle) is a dry, rich red wine from Valpolicella in the Veneto region of Italy. Made from Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes that have been picked late and partially dried in the sun to concentrate the flavors and sugars, Amarone has complexity, elegance, power and finesse. The Arena from Tony Sasa is full-bodied with aromas of dried flowers, chocolate-covered raisins, tar and tobacco. It’s a powerhouse with a velvety texture.
“I love this wine,” O’Leary said. “This is the definition of complexity. You’ll get salt, you’ll get chocolate, you’ll get soy sauce, you’ll get brown sugar, you’ll get fermented flavors. This is a fun wine to pair with red meat.”
Prime Table Steakhouse offers a memorable food and wine experience, and a wonderful opportunity to try something different.