Eventually you find Kitchen A Trattoria discretely tucked away off a main street in St. James, Long Island. Worth the momentary measure of driving confusion, the restaurant delivers a top BYOB opportunity to pair Long Island’s most impeccably crafted, mouth watering, rustic Italian fare with your cellar’s treasures. Hundreds of miles from my own wine cellar, our evening featured some Txakoli from Spain’s Basque country, a Chenin Blanc from South Africa’s Swartland, and a perennial show-stopping value Cotes du Rhone from importer Eric Solomon; (***1/2 $14) 2009 Domaine la Garrigue Cuvee Romaine.
On this return visit, eight of us reveled in a meal that shook loose personal memories of stumbled-upon trattorias across Italy that once enveloped my senses and palate. The preparations are simple, focused, authentic, flavorful, and on-point American interpretations of Italy’s best soul food. Appropriately friendly and knowledgeable servers deftly organize the small and unassuming dining room’s convivial theatrics. Three and five course menus are a steal and combined with its BYOB policy, Kitchen A Trattoria adds up to a must visit if you are anywhere close to Long Island’s middle North Shore.
The 2009 Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine was a perfect wine for the evening. Recent vintages of Cote du Rhone, especially 2007, are fairly subject to criticism for embodying over-ripe, high alcohol character in lieu of their traditionally spicy, herb infested fruit flavors and aromas that chiseled Cote du Rhone’s rewarding and simple regional wine reputation in Paris and countryside bistros across France. The current vintage of Domaine la Garrigue has taken steps to reverse the finger pointing, and provides a style of wine more closely resembling a great, top vintage Gigondas. The Grenache and Syrah fruit going into the wine comes from Cotes du Rhone and Gigondas vineyards overseen by Vacqueyras based domain and restaurant operator Maxime Bernard.
While the wine never shrinks from it’s rich and full fruited posture that some will claim continues to represent a left turn for Cote du Rhone, it delivers a rustic nose of familiar anise, Provencal field herbs, and black peppery spice. It is a marriage of old style Cotes du Rhone character and rich black cherry fruit. The Grenache/Syrah blend presents a smooth, but weighty, mouth feel. Mostly, the 2009 Domaine la Garrigue is reminiscent of the compelling drinking experiences available through much more expensive and classy Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Papes from strong vintages. If I tasted the wine blind, I never would have guessed it was $14 and Cotes du Rhone. Its aromatic and flavor profiles combine sexy fruit, rustic spice, and flora to create a graceful enough wine experience deserving a $40+ price tag.
Buy the 2009 Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine and book your weekend reservation, at least one week before, at Kitchen A Trattoria. You will have two experiences where “simple and rustic” transforms itself into “classy and ethereal”.
Tip: Ask them to replace the wine glasses on your table with the stemless water glasses. They are much better vessels for the wine you tote along.