Wine in restaurants 1.2: Lasarte, Can Boix and Cal Gabriel

In the last two weeks I have enjoyed two top-level restaurants (due to special celebrations; unfortunately this is not the average for the rest of the year) and a basic, popular one, and all three deserve some comments about their wine management.

Lasarte is a Barcelona-based restaurant with 2 Michelin stars, located in the Condes de Barcelona Hotel, and managed by the Basque chef Martín Berasategui, owner of the 3-star restaurant of the same name in Donostia.
Martín Berasategui

Its wine list includes most of the world’s remarkable wine regions. Local focus is adequate, as is the balance between famous workhorses and original, less well-known proposals. Prices are reasonable for this level, at perhaps 50% over retail price. They offer matching wines for their special menu, suggesting also selected beers in some cases. In the only mistake I could detect, this is not shown in the menu, but mentioned by the service. In our case we were not told, and took instead a bottle of Sot Lefriec 2004, a red Penedès by Alemany i Corrio winery. Dense, closed at first but opening later to show red and black fruit, toast and vanilla, and a long finish.

The sommelier is very knowledgeable and sensitive, and when I pointed out that we would have liked to get the wines that were being served to nearby tables, he offered us two samples: one glass of excellent Belgian beer and one glass of an Alella Marfil Generós Sec, which matched perfectly their two dishes.

Our wine was decanted and served at appropriate temperature in excellent glasses. To round things off, we were presented at the end with a printed menu including the wines and beer we had drunk.

Summarizing, wine management quite close to what should be expected in a restaurant at this level.

In a very different environment, at the feet of the Pyrenees and close to the road from Lleida to La Seu d’Urgell, the Hotel Can Boix boasts, among other attractions, a restaurant of creative cuisine that attracts gourmets from all over Catalonia. However, wine management is in some aspects a step below.

Can Boix Hotel
The wine list, indeed a book, includes a wide range of wine regions, with interesting information about each of them. But in many cases only a small number of wines of that zone are available. Wine vintages are not shown, except for a small list of bottles that appear at the end of the book and which I nearly overlooked. No wine matching was possible.

The sommelier was on long sick leave and his deputy was extremely pleasant and active, but had some ideas about wine service that could improve by training. He showed us the cellar, kept at a surprising 20ºC, and we discussed at length about wine.

Our bottle (at wine shop price) was decanted and served in glasses perhaps too wide and short. Anyway, the Penedès red Caus Lubis 1998, that I had tasted some years ago, was impressive in its maturity, with tannins present but perfectly rounded and complex aromas of mineral, red fruit and old leather.

Probably the absence of the sommelier was being felt a trifle too much; but the deputy, with some development, may well have the potential to upgrade wine management to match the cuisine performance.

Playing in another league altogether, Cal Gabriel is the restaurant of a bed-and-breakfast holiday cottage in the village of Tuixent, in the middle of the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. No starred chef here, but honest, nourishing, local product based cooking.

Cal Gabriel
What about wine? They propose some 20 references, from different zones, and with a surprising and welcome absence of run-of-the-mill best sellers, at moderate prices.

When we selected a bottle of Costers del Segre Bregolat red, (well structured, somewhat short in the nose) they changed the stemware ready for the house wine by glasses that were not Riedel, but nice and suitable. They apologized that the wine might be too warm (only marginally so, imo) and suggested to cool it down a little. And at the end of lunch offered us a bag to take home the remaining wine.

For a restaurant with a 14 € menu and in a remote village in the Pyrenees I felt that few more things could be asked...that’s the way to go!

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