On the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental is Twist, a restaurant with a unique culinary angle and incredible Strip views. A spectacular combination of industrial and organic aesthetics, the experience is spearheaded by chef Pierre Gagnaire.
Managing the wine program at Twist is recent Las Vegas import Will Costello Originally from San Diego, Costello’s credentials include the Addison restaurant at the Grand Del Mar. His philosophy there, which continues at Twist, is to include everyone on the service staff in wine education and the wine program.
Twist is Gagnaire’s first American restaurant, and it augments his strong base in Europe. Known for using an array of spices from around the world, Gagnaire challenges and inspires sommeliers such as Costello. Recently, Gagnaire’s Alsatian-styled sauerkraut dish with foie gras gave Costello a number of French possibilities. He paired it with a cream sherry from Spain, as Costello felt the foie would be accentuated by a sweet wine, but the sauerkraut demanded something different than a straightforward sweet Bordeaux pairing. The combinations are constantly changing, and as such, are always fresh. Costello notes, “Nothing stays on the by-the-glass menu more than … 34 bottles.” (Two go into the cellar to build long-term wine-list selections.)
For Twist’s Grand Tasting menu, the entry-level wine offering matches each of six courses with a different grape varietal from a different country. Costello’s goal is to expose the guest to wines that are varied and give a wide-ranging experience.
However, Costello does include a few familiarly flavored options such as the 2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges. This Cabernet Franc-based French wine has a nice herbal quality that makes Costello think green—“green tobacco … and moss. It’s very, very green.” For me, the wine ($17 per glass or $75 per bottle) adds a bit of bubblegum aroma as well.
To go beyond the customers’ expectations, Costello weds a Gagnaire signature dish—crayfish with Champagne-onion syrup, morel cream and an edible purple chai flower garnish—with a naturally made Slovenian wine, which is fermented and aged in terracotta amphorae buried underground and lined with beeswax. This 2011 Batic Zaria ($22 per glass or $95 per bottle)—a blend of pinela, rebula, zelen and other varietals that are fermented together—visually indicates its natural winemaking approach: As the entire process takes place in amphorae, it’s exposed to more air than normal, giving it a unique color and slight cloudiness, indicating an ancient style. Costello enjoys sharing wines like this with a look, aroma and taste that give Twist’s customers something new to talk about.
Twist’s six-course Grand Tasting menu is $175; for the less ravenous, there is a four-course $135 option. There are two wine pairing levels for the six-course menu: $120 for the standard pairing and $225 for the Grand Pairing. Or, for a no-limit wine experience, Twist offers the Lucky Number Seven Pairing for $777.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire
In Mandarin Oriental, 590-8888. Open 6-10 p.m. Tue-Thu, 6-10:30 p.m. Fri-Sat.
The 2011 Zaria is unique: stone fruit with a sherry-like component and a little volatile acidity. A certain amount of cloudiness in the glass nods to its unfiltered, unfined, hands-off winemaking style. Raw honey-colored under most light, when a full glass is poured and the light catches it, it’s obvious why some refer to this style as “orange wine”—a result of production methods. Costello explains, “This is a wine for food.” To that end, he often pairs it with Twist’s saffron risotto. Costello appreciates the “roasted apricots [and] baked peach” aromas in the wine, as well as its aging floral notes. I found a caramelized fruit component, as well, that adds to this unique wine’s character.