In mid-September, Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan hosted a sommelier shoot-out: Wine director Daniel Johnnes invited the somms from six of chef Daniel Boulud's restaurants to select two wines to pair with different courses at dinner. About 100 guests evaluated the matches.
There were classics from Champagne and Burgundy, and obscure selections from Friuli and the Côtes du Jura. On my scorecard, the best wines, and the best match, came from Michael Madrigale, from New York's Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud.
Madrigale had the challenge of matching a dish of grouse with huckleberries. The breast, cooked rare, was served with a gamy forcemeat and earthy root vegetables, countered by the sweetness of the berries. It was a powerful dish, and it needed a powerful wine.
As not infrequently happens when evaluating pairings, I actually preferred Madrigale's other selection, a laser-focused 2007 Cornas from Domaine Guillaume Gilles, on its own. But the rich fruit, mineral and garrigue notes of the Pierre Usseglio & Fils Grenache-dominated Châteauneuf–and its power, driven by 16 percent alcohol–made it a perfect partner for the grouse. My tablemate, Wall Street Journal writer Jay McInerney, apparently agreed, as he skillfully cadged a second glass to sip along with the cheese that followed.