In seeking to capture the insatiable palates of New Yorkers from SoHo to Syracuse, California-based launched its services in the Empire State this week by hosting a luncheon to showcase the favorite wine picks of its current celebrity guest, Le Cirque 2000 Wine Director Ralph Hersom. The eight wines, most of which are priced at $20 and under, were paired with a summer menu created expressly for the occasion by Le Cirque 2000 Executive Chef Sottha Khunn - proving that one need not break the bank to enjoy a sophisticated wine and dining experience.

"Teaming up with wine celebrities such as Ralph Hersom who share our passion for wine, but who are able to demystify it a bit, is one of the ways in which we can make wine more enjoyable and less intimidating to consumers," said Brooke Correll, vice president of marketing for "And New Yorkers are no exception."

Representing a broad range of winemaking styles and growing regions, Hersom's selections were paired with five dishes equally diverse in ingredients and flavor. "It's all about tasting," said Hersom. "You can read about wine in a book, but until you pull a cork, you don't realize the real pleasure wine has to offer. Reading about wine is foreplay; drinking it is, well, you know," he added.

The " Takes Manhattan" luncheon menu and Hersom's wine notes follow:

Rosette of Smoked Salmon with Dill paired with Crabtree Clare Valley Riesling 1998 ($18.99)

"A textbook example of Riesling, this wine has a petrol-like nose, is light-to medium bodied, and has great acidity making it a great accompaniment to smoked fish."

Brioche with Terrine of Foie Gras with Alain Hudelot-Noellat Bourgogne Pinot Noir 1995 ($15.50)

"While a California-style Pinot might have aromas of ripe cranberries, French styles smell more like dried cranberries, and this French Pinot Noir is no exception. It is medium bodied, with flavors of dried cranberries, leather, and spice. The French style always tends to be earthier --more earth in the nose and a real sense of terroir."

Lobster Salad with Black Truffle Dressing with Abundance Wattle Creek Vineyard Alexander Valley Viognier 1997 ($17.00)

"(Abundance) is a fuller style white. It's extremely aromatic, with floral aromas and flavors of white peach. I would like this with lobster--especially if you do it with an interesting preparation like something with mango. It will play off the sweet aromas, but it finishes dry."


. . . with Valley View Anna Maria Pinot Gris 1998 ($13.00)

"Thumbs up! Pinot Gris grows really well in Oregon, and this is a great example of the results. It's a weightier white wine, with apple and pear flavors and just the right amount of oak to give it an added umph. It's a great alternative to Chardonnay, and it's not going to break your bank account."

Red Snapper with a Chickpea Cake, Wild Mushrooms and Crispy Bacon with Herzog Selection Brouilly Cru du Beaujolais 1998 ($13.00)

"Forget anything negative you might have heard or thought about Beaujolais. This is the real deal and a really good representation. It also happens to be kosher. The cru of Brouilly produces some of the most aromatic Beaujolais, and this one's got extremely ripe aromas and flavors of raspberry and currant. It's a fun summer wine, too. Don't be afraid to stick it in an ice bucket-- yes, it's okay!"

Rack of Lamb with Thyme with Roasted Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables with Ristow Estate Quinta de Pedras Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 ($45.00)

"Ristow's a newcomer to the Napa Valley Cabernet scene. This full-bodied red wine is delicious now or could be cellared for several years, though its black fruit aromas, well-integrated tannins, and very long finish make it hard to resist now. It could be served with grilled meats and other hearty dishes; or -- if you have enough control-- you could wait until the fall for a nice roast leg of lamb."

In addition to the wines detailed above, Hersom also recommends 1998 Rowland Cellars Red Triangle Syrah ($22.00) and 1998 Cantine Vilide Oltrepo Pavese Pinot Grigio ($8.99).

About Ralph Hersom

Currently Hersom oversees a wine program that has held Wine Spectator's Grand Award since 1986 and that in 1999 earned the following praise from the magazine: "(the list) has perhaps never been better."

Hersom began his wine career in 1994 at San Francisco's Moose's Restaurant, where, at age 23, he was the first sommelier in the restaurant's history. His list garnered Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence. In 1995 he received his basic certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and, in 1996, won first place in the advanced course at Sterling Vineyards School of Service and Hospitality. One month later he became cellar master at Windows On the World, where he helped resurrect the wine list with noted wine expert Kevin Zraly. He then left to re-open Le Cirque 2000.

Most recently Hersom launched, a Web site that embodies his decidedly approachable and cost-conscious attitude toward wine.

"I am happy most of my selections for are under $20.00," said Hersom. "I wanted to demonstrate that there are great wines being made around the world, and the varietals I've chosen will point you in the right direction."


Currently serving consumers in the states of New York and California, among others, will roll out additional states in the coming months with the goal of serving 70 percent of U.S. wine consumers by the 2000 holiday season. The company partners with wine producers, wholesalers, and retailers in a "clicks-and-mortar" model to fulfill wine orders lawfully through the existing three-tier system that governs wine sales, distribution, and delivery. It is backed by $46 million in funding from, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and other strategic investors.

All wines featured at the luncheon are available through, and recipes can be obtained by contacting Suzanne Gannon at 415/348-4225 (; Holly McDermott at 415/357-6471 (; or Valarie Brown at 707/258-0792 (