In celebration of the Mayans being wrong and the end of the 2012 year, my wife and I decided to head out and treat ourselves to a amazing meal at the only speakeasy in East Hampton. We kept hearing about this locals’ secret hangout in one of the most prestigious and upscale restaurants in the entire area; the 1770 House.
Until recently, I had only known about the 1770 House as a place for those with Amex Black Cards, and never patroned the restaurant. But a colleague of mine explained about this locals’ secret hangout that had the old speakeasy feel with probably the best burger I would ever have. Challenge accepted.
As we descended the “hidden in plain sight” stairs in the foyer, we found this wonderful, dimly lit, wooden bar with exposed wood beams across the ceiling and a small, 4 person corner bar. Immediately, we went into restaurant mode and grabbed the wine list and started our search. What wine would pair up against supposedly the best burger around? It had to be loaded with intensity but elegant enough not to overpower the meat. But what would work best?
Then, as if the Moses himself parted the black ink sea on the menu, we saw the 2005 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberti Rioja Reserva. Talk about a truly sexy Tempranillo. If you have never had the ability to jump into this bottle, I highly suggest it. Hailing from the premier region in Rioja called La Rioja Alta (this is the only winery that is named after the actual region the winery is in – no one else can ever do this again), this Tempranillo is one that should not be missed.
Quite simply, these are some of the finest Riojas that can grace your cellar: complex, refined, classic but without compromising fruit intensity and to reiterate: wines that speak about where they come from. –Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
But before we get more into the wine, I almost forgot to talk about “the burger even cows would eat.” I have to admit that I was expecting a burger that was good, but nothing monumental or legendary. I was wrong! WAY WRONG! This is, hands down the best burger I have ever had. I’m going to say, I ordered my burger with the gruyere cheese, grilled mushrooms and bacon (as was suggested by Rick, the bartender) and I would suggest that when you order nirvana when you go. A perfect 60/40 of lean meat and fat (a highly unusual blend but AMAZING), this perfectly cooked hunk o meat (yeah, that just happened) was divine. Rich and flavorful with a perfect balance and no noticeable fat anywhere. Just rich, red meat. Yum!
Ok, now back to the wine. Rioja is a region that screams Tempranillo and Tempranillo blends. Winemakers generally make their wines with the three noble grapes of the region; Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. The other two are usually used in Reserva and Gran Reserva cuvees however the best cuvees are 100% Tempranillo. La Rioja Alta’s 2005 Reserva is just that; both 100% Tempranillo and the best cuvee! This cuvee just opened up perfectly. Layered wonderfully with bramble (this is by far one of my favorite “wine jargon” words out there as it means earthy, crap-like smells – bramble really does sound better) notes and dark red cherry fruits.
As the marriage of wine and meat met in my mouth more of the wines seductive layers started to emerge and she took control of the evening for a bit. The tannins were extremely silky and became almost none existent once they came in contact with protein in the meat, making a purely gorgeous wine. That little touch of pepper was a perfect compliment to the earthy mushroom/gruyere mixture making this a marriage made in heaven.
If you are searching for a perfect pairing, sneak yourself into the basement speakeasy of the 1770 House in East Hampton and start with an order of the burger (preferably with the mushrooms, gruyere and bacon). Then pair that up with the 2005 La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva and prep yourself for greatness. You will not be disappointed. You will actually finally have an undisputed “the best thing I ever eat and drank” story. Plus, if you happen to be there on an evening when Rick is there, be prepared to add some wonderful humor to your evening. You will most likely see me and my wife at the bar doing the same.