The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Via Montenapoleone on the Upper East Side

Valentino and his Chianti

After a late run through the Bauhaus exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art, I stopped with a couple of friends at Casa Lever (formerly the Lever House now taken over by the Milanese owners of Saint Ambroeus).  Although the decor hasn’t changed much, the menu, the wine list, and the vibe clearly have taken on an authentic Italian attitude. The lounge area is casual and a great area for watching the quintessentially New York scene unfold: entrenched Upper-East siders, errant lovers of all things Italian, and occasional art-lovers.  Knowing the meal would be a little pricey, I wanted to keep our wine choice more reasonable and chose the Hilberg ‘Vareij’ 2007.

Our sommelier was surprised and said that he loved the wine but he had to coax clients to try it and wanted to know how I knew it.  (Of course it is available at Italian Wine Merchants!).   As my friends and I were well into the bottle, a group of well-dressed clients who looked like they just walked off of Via Montenapoleone came into the restaurant. They were led by a tanned, good-looking, charismatic gentleman.  My friend Rick said, “Who is that? I recognize that face.”

“It’s Valentino,” I answered. I’d know that face anywhere; Valentino is one of my fashion idols.

As Valentino’s group grew, settled into their evening, and began emptying bottles, I said to our sommelier, “OK, I have to know what wine Valentino is drinking.”  He rolled his eyes and told me I would be unimpressed because Valentino asked him for a light Chianti.  The sommelier showed me Valentino’s choice: a bottle of Castello di Selvole Chianti Classico 2006.   But I knew something the sommelier didn’t. Rather than being scornful, I was impressed that Valentino chose what most Italians would drink at home—something from the territorio they know, something inexpensive, and something that goes well with a good meal they’re sharing with good friends.

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