The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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Taking Inventory with. . . Josh Nadel Wine Director, Lafayette, New York City story and photo by Lana Bortolot A t the white-hot Lafayette, the latest bead in chef Andrew Carmellini's string of highly successful restaurants, Joshua Nadel dares to do what few other wine directors will: He outnumbers Bordeaux with bottles from lesser-known regions in France. "I wanted to represent France as a whole and bring forward areas I refer to as "off-Broadway" to push people's awareness," Nadel says. His list prominently features places such as Alsace, Corsica and the Loire, giving diners a chance to explore France's off-the-beaten wine path before considering familiar ground. "You have to physically look at those other wines before you get to the comfort zone," he says. But because people also need the "fuzzy blanket," Nadel also has Bordeaux and Burgundy there—but not too much. "Once guests have a comfortable reference point, their minds are open." Nadel's list and the menu at Lafayette, which styles itself after a grand brasserie, reflect the resurgent interest in French dining with a focus on simple, authentic market-driven ingredients. Think Provence (fresh, soulful) meets NoHo (boho, chic) and you've got the idea behind Lafayette. It's also the premise behind Nadel's personal wine philosophy, which revolves around wines of time and place, of high interest and low pretension, and of exceptional quality and value. "I want the wine to be exceptional for the price. Because for better or for worse, that's 85% of the game when it comes to the guest experience." The list is not automatically an easy read for the average diner who peruses the 350 selections. But Nadel says the way it's set up naturally leads staff and diners to a conversation. "We're in a great position to introduce people to new things. The list forces guests to ask questions and we bring the guests to us in that regard. We can walk them through it." A self-taught sommelier, Nadel, 36, brings serious cred to his current stead. His experience includes stints at the wine temples Veritas and Cru (the latter now closed). In the past four years, he's opened five restaurants for Chef Carmellini, which include The Dutch, an American locovore eatery in Manhattan and now in Miami, and Italian trattoria Locanda Verde. He also created the list for Joes' Pub at the Public Theater. Nadel is primarily stationed at Lafayette now, where the challenge has been to ignite an interest in French wine beyond the familiar borders of Côtes du Rhône and Sancerre. To do that, he offers 25 wines by the glass and a 15-ounce "carafe du jour." "French occupies a place in the American psyche. I want people to become comfortable with wine from places they haven't seen before and I want them to drink wine that's awesome," he says. The "5" LIST Josh Nadel's Top Five Faves 1 Wine served at the right temperature and guests who appreciate it. 2 Working with excellent staff. 3 A good Old Fashioned cocktail. 4 A great Gamay. 5 Sharing great wine with friends on a hedonistic level without the pomp and circumstance. Josh Nadel's Five Pet Peeves 1 The word "nice. It doesn't " mean anything—it's like the sweater you get at Christmas. 2 Empty glasses on the table. 3 When friends stop by during service to socialize. 4 People who say they want "a light-bodied Malbec. " 5 Lots of things in my pockets. 150  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2013 TP1013_104-152.indd 150 9/23/13 10:38 PM

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