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ON WINE: Restaurant Latour’s award-winning wine list a labor of love, expertise and high-tech tools

ON WINE: Restaurant Latour’s award-winning wine list a labor of love, expertise and high-tech tools

Tucked in the mountains of Sussex County in northwest New Jersey, Restaurant Latour, part of the Crystal Springs Resort in Hardyston, N.J., has established itself as a wine lovers’ destination. The restaurant—which features a 50,000-bottle cellar—blends the human expertise of its staff and the cutting-edge technology of wine assessment tools to build and refine its collection.

In fact, last year the establishment won the coveted Grand Award from Wine Spectator Magazine, an award based mainly on the quality of a restaurant’s wine list, including its size and depth. Restaurant Latour is one of only 80 restaurants worldwide that has been awarded this honor from the magazine and one of only three recognized in 2006.

The restaurant, part of the 4,000-acre Crystal Springs golf and spa resort, seats 40, but banquet rooms accommodate up to 300 guests. The operation features contemporary American cuisine, with locally grown produce from nearby farms and breads, cheeses, meat and fish mainly from artisan purveyors in Sussex County and from the owner’s own organic ranch in Colorado. John Benjamin, the executive chef, has worked with such masters as Thomas Keller, Michael Mina and Charlie Palmer.


2004 Domaine William Fèvre Grand Cru Chablis, Les Clos (France)

Domaine William Fèvre, under the new ownership of Joseph Henriot of Champagne Henriot and Bouchard Père et Fils Burgundy, has emerged in the past few years as one of the truly great Chablis properties. It shows its finest expression in its Grand Cru, Les Clos. The 2004 vintage, a fairly cool year, was particularly good for Chablis. The ’04 Les Clos, although rich and well-rounded, has the crisp, lively acidity essential in Chablis. Serve it with seafood or any kind of shellfish.

Wholesale price per case of 12, $720.

Restaurant Latour’s wine list is particularly strong on Bordeaux, with Château Latour as its centerpiece. Owner Gene Mulvihill, who made his fortune on Wall Street, began acquiring wine more than 40 years ago with a 12-bottle case of 1961 Château Latour for $230. Today, one bottle of that wine—one of the all-time great vintages of Château Latour—costs $4,000, retail, and is difficult to find. Over 42 vintages of Château Latour, dating back to 1888, are on the restaurant’s 3,000-label list.

Since then, the wine list has grown to include numerous other Bordeaux first growths, including 21 vintages each of Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Mouton-Rothschild, and 18 vintages of Château Margaux. The list features an impressive array of elite Burgundies and Rhône wines as well. California is well-represented with an exceptional array of Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays, both modern stars and traditional producers.

For Italian wine lovers, Restaurant Latour offers a number of top Barolos, Angelo Gaja’s wines, and many exceptional Super-Tuscan wines.

The wine cellar has numerous separate rooms, each devoted to a certain wine region. German-born Susanne Lerescu has the enviable job of being the sommelier to this empire of wines. Wine director John Foy is the man in charge of maintaining the list and supplementing the cellar with new finds.

Foy happily follows Gene Mulvihill’s wine acquisition strategy, which Mulvihill sums up in two words: “No budget.”

One of the unique features of Restaurant Latour is its wine scanner, which Mulvihill says is the only one in the world. Developed by scientists at the University of California at Davis, the scanner can measure, with radio waves, the level of oxidation and acetic acid—the latter commonly known as volatile acidity—of an unopened bottle.

If a wine is in good condition, a green signal flashes, if a wine has some problems, a yellow signal appears, and a wine in poor condition gets a red signal. The Wine Scanner gives a computer printout of each wine it measures, which is read by a technician.

Mulvihill uses the scanner any time he purchases fine older wines. If the wines don’t get the green light, he returns them or disposes of them.

Restaurant Latour is a unique experience, and a special treat for wine aficionados. To view the entire wine list of Restaurant Latour, which is just over an hour’s drive from New York City, go to .

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