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Christopher S. Miller

I HAVE HAD several restaurateurs ask me to profile their list and wine program (any press is good press as long as you spell my name right). I recently dined at two restaurants and got a good idea about their wine programs. First, my wife and I visited Teller’s Chop House in Islip. Later, my son and I visited The Sagamore Steakhouse in Syosset. Steakhouses take their wine lists very seriously. Steak is very easy to match with big, serious wines critics fawn over (Screaming Eagle, Opus, Colgin, Dominus to name a few) and the type of dining is very conducive to spending money on a serious bottle of wine.

We dined at Teller’s during their anniversary celebration, which offered a selection of 10 complimentary wines. This presented the opportunity to discover how several different wines matched our meals. My wife enjoyed the Babich Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) and Las Brias Rueda (a Sauvignon Blanc/Verdejo blend from Spain) with her seared Tuna. I enjoyed both with my appetizer, but switched to Willakenizie Pinot Noir (Willamette, Oregon) and Luzon Verde (Monastrell—aka Mouvedre—from Jumilla in southern Spain).

The well-rounded list includes about 800 selections by the bottle and close to 30 by the glass. The California Cabernet selection is truly amazing with verticals of Araujo, Bryant Family, Caymus, Montelena, Opus, Insignia and on and on. Bordeaux and Burgundy are also well represented. Other unique offerings included: Sean Thackrey’s Orion (a Rhone blend from Sonoma and Napa Valley—$180); il Carboanione Poggio Scallete (100% Sangiovese from Chianti Classico—$110); and one of the greatest wines from Spain, Vega Sicilia’s 1994 Unico (Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero— $550). One of the best values on the list is a 1998 Côte Rôtie from Jean-Michel Stephan for $58.

Dinner at Sagamore Steakhouse in Syosset was originally to be with my wife, but she had a “girls night out,” so my 13-year-old son and I had a “boys night out.” I thought the evening might be a bit of a chore for him, but he had a great time and sincerely enjoyed the food, especially the Braised Short Ribs served with a potato pancake. The Sagamore has morphed into a steakhouse on the level of its brethren, Rothmann’s and Burton & Doyle. The wine list is close to 550 selections, with a huge selection of wines offered by the glass—at least fifty.

The white wine I chose (Hundred Acre Gold, a blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Viognier—$14 a glass) had gold leaf flakes floating in it. The wine was lush and rich in flavors, switching back and forth between the citrus of Chardonnay and the floral notes of the other grapes.

The red I tried was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($17.50 a glass), which had that earthy and spicy component that I find so appealing in Rhone wines and complimented the excellent Colorado Lamb Chops.

Sagamore’s wine list is of a more traditional New York Steakhouse style, with fun surprises for those willing to experiment. Verité Le Desir 2001 is a bit pricey ($260), but I consider it one of California’s best Bordeaux (St-Emilion in particular) styled wines. It is based on Cabernet Franc and Merlot and is from the best sites in Sonoma. The list also includes the rare and renowned Screaming Eagle for a measly $1500 a bottle. The value wine I found on the list was a 2004 Nelms Road Merlot ($40). This is the second label of Woodward Canyon in Walla Walla, Washington. The Rothmann’s Group also hires Sommeliers who have a SSA or ASA Sommelier Certificate in hand, so the knowledge is quite good there too.

These two restaurants firmly show that great wine lists and programs can be found on Long Island, so don’t just save your dining dollars for the occasional trip to Manhattan!