Grapevine: The High Cost of a Fine Meal at a Renowned Restaurant

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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

Wine lists, in the hands of a skilled and customer-focused sommelier, can be the epitome of the overall experience at a restaurant. When curated with the food menu in mind, they can be the cornerstone of an exceptional dining experience at a top restaurant.

They can also reflect the high prices at which many restaurants have priced their food menu. At a number of high-end, highly acclaimed restaurants, notably in New York City, a diner may spend considerably more on a bottle of wine than on the expensive meal for which it is to be paired.

In my last two columns, I’ve focused on the sea change in wine lists and the underlying influence of the newest generation of sommeliers. This week I’m presenting an example of one restaurant’s food and wine offerings that epitomize the pinnacle of the new landscape of top restaurants.

The menus at New York’s high-end restaurants are more expansive, and more expensive, than at any time in this cosmopolitan city’s history – and wine lists are following suit. I’ve previously reviewed “The World’s Best Wine Lists of 2015,” as designated by the highly regarded The World of Fine Wine magazine. The top-rated restaurant wine list was that of Eleven Madison Park in New York City. The combination of food, wine and service has garnered the restaurant the highest accolades from many sources.

Over the past year it has received a four star rating from The New York Times (one of only six awarded in New York) and a three star rating from the Michelin Guide (one of only nine awarded in the United States). Additionally, it has been honored with the number five ranking in the prestigious San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World, the highest ranking of any North American restaurant.

The culinary experience is not for the faint of heart. There is no a la carte menu. Rather, each day the kitchen decides on the ingredients and recipes for each of the dozen (or more) courses. Yes, that will take a large bite out of a patron’s day – up to four hours from start to finish.

The price of this extravagant meal? $225 per person, before tax and gratuity.

And the wines? Befitting the menu. Here is an overview of the restaurant’s wine list, as culled from an analytical review conducted by Grape Collective, a web-based group of editors and writers seeking out topics for wine lovers.

The list is extensive, offering more than 3,000 choices. There is also an impressive list of 73 wines by the glass. The selections are dominated by French wines (90 percent) including over 1,100 wines from Burgundy. Surprisingly, there is a reasonable focus on American wines, unlike a number of other high-end restaurants.

The wine prices are more extravagant than the lofty tasting menu price. The median price is $595; the average price is $752. While there are nearly 400 wines priced less than $100, there are more than 750 wines priced over $500.

Patrons dine at Eleven Madison Park for many reasons, often to celebrate a (very) special occasion. And there are special wines for such occasions. For a special birthday, one might be interested in a 1961 Château Margaux Bordeaux ($6,150) or a 1971 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy ($8,900). For a very special birthday, a dessert wine might be in order. Why not consider the 1929 Château d’Yquem Sauternes ($11,000). The highest priced wine? A 1971 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Monopole Burgundy ($13,500).

One of the hidden bargains at the restaurant may be the corkage fee. For $65, a patron may bring a favorite wine to suit the occasion without incurring the significant mark-up of the wines on the restaurant’s list.

Whether dining for hedonistic pleasure or cultured refinement, a meal at Eleven Madison Park will leave a lasting impression on a patron’s life – and wallet.

Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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