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French Whines 

Are Northeast Ohio's eateries Gauled by world politics?

The sewers of California may be awash in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as West Coast restaurateurs are reportedly dumping their inventory of French wines; and in New York City, French restaurants may be closing from a paucity of business. But while rumors abound that local restaurants have stripped French imports from their menus (in protest of that country's stance against the U.S./Iraq conflict), we haven't actually found one. About as bellicose as it gets is Marlin Kaplan, chef-owner of downtown's One Walnut, where the wine list is pretty much all-American anyway. When the current stock of Moët & Chandon and Evian runs out, he warns, don't expect him to order more. "Under the current circumstances, I don't care to support French products," Kaplan reports.

Jeff Jaskiel, partner in Parker's New American Bistro in Ohio City, is also mainly fighting a war of attrition. "I'm not aggressively seeking new French products," he allows. "But then again, I've been moving toward more domestic, Australian, and New Zealand wines for quite a while now."

At Shaker Square's fire, chef-owner Doug Katz is even less hawkish. "I gave some thought to taking French wines off the list, but in the end we decided that customer service is more important than making a political statement," he says. Wine guy Lee Karr, from the Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar, also likes to keep some distance between his politics and his potables, and says he has no plans to tinker with his wine list. (However, he does admit he dropped a French Bordeaux from an upcoming wine-tasting.) And in Little Italy, chef-owner Paul Minnillo of the Baricelli Inn (where French artisanal cheeses are a menu mainstay) says he finds the whole notion of boycotting French products "ludicrous." "The winemakers and cheesemakers that would be hurt by a boycott are farmers," he fumes. "The last thing on their minds is what Jacques Chirac is up to."

But if our restaurateurs aren't aggressively sticking it to Frenchy, diners seem to be more politically inclined. Karr has noticed a modest decline in French wine sales at the Grovewood, he says, and Matt Barnes, chef-owner at Saucy Bistro in Rocky River, reports the same.

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