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What the closing of La Belle Vie means to MSP wine lovers

Sad day. Very sad.

The closing of La Belle Vie came out to the blue. Maybe people on the insider track knew it was coming, but a casual post by a friend on Facebook tipped me off to the news. Absolutely out of nowhere, bam! The best restaurant in town is closing in two weeks.

This sucks. Bigtime.

Here’s the thing: La Belle Vie was the best in town when it came to wine service. Proper, top notch, high test wine service.

The snobs and hipsters might say it doesn’t matter. Who cares about service from the correct side? Who cares about position of the stemware? Hell, at moments I’ve said it doesn’t matter myself (“just pop the cork and pour it, no worries”). But in the end having a dining destination where top notch wine service, done correctly by professionals who take pride in their craft, is an important thing in our local wine scene. And experiencing top level service is joy and a sight to behold.

I first visited La Belle Vie when they were in Stillwater. I was with Michel Chapoutier of all people (who fell asleep on the way there after complaining for 20 minutes about “what chef wants me to ride this far away!” … his assistant simply said “Michel, you should take a nap” and ten seconds later he was asleep. Twenty minutes after that he was spot on, fully awake, detailing the magic of biodynamic farming for the wine buyer. It was awesome).

La Belle Vie was the first restaurant in town to take stemware VERY seriously. You ordered a Burgundy? Here are the Burgundy stems. Oh, Pinot Noir from Oregon instead? Here are the Oregon Pinot Noir stems. Polished, spot free, placed at the same spot in front of everybody at the table, just above and to the right of the knife.

Outside of the very best restaurants of New York and San Francisco, nowhere else did I feel the level of quiet precision that La Belle Vie offered.

In recent times, Matt Anderson and sommelier Craig Coulter have run the ship with precision, always looking out for the customer and helping everybody who walked through the doors feel like they were the most awesome, most important, most beautiful, most impressive, most important person on the planet. That was their gift, and why La Belle Vie was different from the other restaurants in town.

I raise a glass to the crew, to Tim McKee, to former partner and sommelier Bill Summerville, to Matt and Craig, to Jonny, to Michael aka YoungChef2, and to the dozens of friends that have helped make La Belle Vie what it is/was.

My fear is that there will never be another restaurant like this. My fear is that top level service and top level food will not be popular enough to warrant demand. Maybe it has to be a smaller restaurant, maybe it has to be less ambitious, I don’t know. All I know is get you ass to LBV for at least a bite at the bar and quick glass. It’s the end of an era.

LBV

Photo by sommelier Craig Coulter

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2 Responses to What the closing of La Belle Vie means to MSP wine lovers

  1. Kairos Cuilann des Rosiers October 10, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Minneapolis is a great wine market, but I knew that after opening some restaurants, and developing Fhima’s & Minneapolis Café’s lists, that I would have to get out of town to up my wine service game, so Chicago, Las Vegas, and NYC it was, where I proceeded to learn, how little that I really knew, being in a smaller, younger, less-developed restaurant scene. And I got my ass kicked by the best…and thanked them for it.

    The educational programs of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Sommelier Guild are helpful when it comes to the finer points of service, the timing and flow of managing wine programs with multiple venues, and the art of negotiating with MegaWine conglomerates in order to get the blue chips.

    Would like to see more young sommelier leave the Twin Cities market, to work in Rélais-Châteaux/Michelin-starred properties in Manhattan, Chicago, San Francisco, Vegas, et al, and then bring that knowledge back to train the service staff.

    I retired in 2011 from restaurant wine, but I stil care about the biz.

    My 2 cents,

    K

    Kairos Cuilann des Rosiers
    retired wine director/sommelier
    Everest-Sixteen-Joël Robuchon

  2. Al Lathrop October 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    Jason– right on, man! La Belle Vie will be very much missed. Not only is the food, wine pairings, and service top-notch, but the little things, such as table settings, proper wine glasses, etc. are all perfect. The Twin Cities needs a restaurant like this, not a lot of second-tier places whose wait staff are not trained in the niceties of service and the table settings all look second class as well. And, not to mention having a dining experience where the diners do not have to shout at each other to be heard above the roar of conversation and loud music.

    Thanks very much for your article.

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