A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a very good lunch at Deer Valley’s Royal Street CafÃ©. The food was great. The service was superb. But what really sticks in my mind from that lunch was the wine. And it wasn’t even so much the wine itself that caught my attention'a split of Veuve Clicquot and a glass of Saintsbury Pinot Noir'but rather the temperatures at which the wine was served. As with everything else at Deer Valley Resort, wine service is just about perfect. And thanks in large part to the wine expertise and watchful eye of Deer Valley’s Kris Anderson, I will boldly suggest that you’ll never have to drink a wine that’s too cold or too warm at Deer Valley. Oh, how I wish that were true elsewhere!
In my years of writing about food and wine in Utah, I can think of only a handful of restaurants that pay as much attention to wine serving temperature as Deer Valley Resort’s restaurants do. It is rare that I dine out and don’t get served red wine that is too warm and white wine that is too cold. It’s predictable. But I get confused stares from servers when I ask for an ice bucket for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and I’m forced to continually fight over my Sauvignon Blanc: The server puts the bottle in the ice bucket and I wrestle it out, leaving it to warm on the table. The server comes by and places it back into the bucket, I remove it. This sometimes goes on throughout an evening.
It amazes me that restaurateurs are often willing to spend thousands of dollars on their wine inventory and then leave the wine stacked in boxes in a back room, with a few whites and blush wines on ice at the bar or in a fridge. This is the approach taken even by some local restaurants with huge wine lists. They don’t need to invest in million-dollar wine cellars, but spending even a few hundred bucks on a modest wine-storage system would improve the life of a restaurant’s wines and improve the drinking experience for customers.
It’s not so much a matter of aging. That is, I’m not recommending that restaurateurs invest in wine-storage systems in order to age their wines. After all, most of the wine that gets sold in Utah restaurants is domestic stuff that doesn’t need more than about an hour of aging anyway. Few restaurants have the storage capacity or deep pockets necessary for keeping wines that are more than a few years old. I rarely find wine on local lists that has been around for even a decade. So the point about wine-storage systems that help keep wine at the proper temperature isn’t about aging the wines, although they help. The point is that they ensure a proper serving temperature of a wine, whether it’s 40 years or 40 days old.
I would rather drink a mediocre wine served at the proper temperature than a great wine served too cold or too warm. Why? Well, because a great wine served too warm or cold just won’t taste great. It’s that simple. Restaurants tend to serve red wines at room temperature. Well, that’s fine if by room temperature you mean somewhere in the range of 62 - 65 F. I’m convinced that many people who don’t drink red wine don’t drink it because it’s usually served too warm. Warm red wine tastes flabby and too alcoholic, since heat really brings out the alcohol component in wine. Just try pouring a glass of red wine at room temperature alongside a glass of the same wine that you’ve chilled in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes. I suspect you’ll find a remarkable difference. Ditto for white wine. Served too cold, subtle nuances and flavors disappear. But served in the vicinity of 55 - 58 F, white wine really begins to blossom.