By Danny Brody
When all of your fish are "flown in daily" and all of your wines are French and there’s no sign outside to let anyone know where you are, some people might wonder if perhaps Maison d’Azur isn’t more than another Euro-trash tourist hell-hole, designed to make you feel good about getting taken to the cleaners. But the warm welcome, as well as the coziness of this little oasis on the somewhat shabby 600-block of Washington Ave., belie expectations. As far as the wine list goes, there are some topped-out traps as well as a few reasonably priced bottles that’ll make you feel good after a warm evening spent on the sidewalk cafe, before it gets way too hot (next week) to even think about dining outside.
Starting with champagne, I would recommend the magnums (equivalent to two bottles) of both Dom Perignon (1998) and Krug (NV). These bottles, which the wine list variously describes as "exuding honey, vanilla and coffee notes" (is this a latte?) and "baking brioche, coconut, candied citrus and leather" (a baseball made of fruitcake?), are priced at $772 and $855, respectively. Retailing at about $300 each… just kidding. Try the Gosset Excellence NV, which at $81 is not a bad price, retailing for $35 or more. Just make sure your ice bucket is filled and refilled, and that your server doesn’t pour too much into the flutes at once. Warm champagne is not good.
But if you’re looking to spend less than a week’s salary, start with the Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2005 from Alsace. At $45, about $15 retail, it won’t blow you away, but this dry white pairs nicely with the La Salade d’ Endive au Roquefort ($16). If you want to step it up, the list also has the Trimbach Riesling, Cuvee Frederic Emile 2001, which, at $100, may seem high, but this fruity wine, which retails for about $50, will bring home your Le Thon de Ligne (line-caught tuna) or Scottish Smoked Salmon.
When looking for bargains on a French wine list, I always look to the less-talked about regions, so the Rhone listing of Mas Carlot Marsanne-Rousanne caught my eye. Unfortunately, it’s neither a Rhone (it’s from the Languedoc further south) nor a bargain ($30 on the list, $7-9 retail). Although it’s a pleasant enough Rhone-style blend for your average hot dog (the list describes it as having "complex notes of yellow fruit," whatever that means), it should be priced lower.
On to the darker side, I headed to the Rhone listings and found the Oriel Courant 2004, a Syrah-heavy blend that’ll enhance your steak experience (described as blackberry, currant, licorice and tar — picture walking down the street on a hot day and you drop your Jujubes) and sells for $48. Oddly, it’s $14/glass, which, figuring four glasses to the bottle, would take you to $56. Get the bottle. A splurge would be the Domaines Ligneres, Piece de Roche 2003, a 100-percent Carignan from Corbieres in the Languedoc area, the best growing region for this little-known grape, which, at $69, about $30 retail, has enough silk on the tongue and an interesting enough label to smooth you through the lamb, veal and any lulls in the conversation.
The good: Gosset Excellence NV, $81; Trimbach Riesling, Cuvee Frederic Emile 2001, $100; Oriel Courant 2004, $48; Domaines Ligneres, Piece de Roche 2003, $69.
The bad: N/A
The overpriced: Mas Carlot Marsanne-Rousanne, $30
Maison d’ Azur, 660 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 786-594-5811