Rock Startini and a glass of Benton-Lane 2004 pinot noir

Roxane, 12 North Meramec, Clayton; 314-721-7700.


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Benton-Lane's online literature describes their 2004 pinot noir like this: "Exquisite balance and complexity make this wine an excellent match with a wide array of foods." We'll testify to that, and we've got proof: Sitting on the table before us at Roxane in Clayton is a ridonkulous array of food and drink that would challenge even the most gymnastic wine. We have a plateful of pickle-rich sliders, an over-dressed side salad, a basket of fluffy white bread (with a big-ass pat of butter), a bowl of cole slaw, a cup of ketchup and a Rock Startini. Silly is what it is. We're halfway afraid the glass of Benton-Lane's going to sprout legs, break into tears and leap off the table.

OK, so we got carried away. First we figured we'd just go with the Rock Startini as the Drink of the Week: Ruby Red Absolut grapefruit vodka, apple liqueur, Rock Star energy drink and a cherry. After its arrival and the first sip, however, it was like, duh, what the hell were we thinking? Though we like grapefruit, we loathe apple liqueur, can't stand Rock Star and don't much like silly-ass martinis. Not really Roxane's fault. Any numbskull could tell it was going to be a girly get-drunk drink.

Roxane has many girly get-drunk drinks. It's quite impressive, actually. Where other Clayton establishments brag about their fifteen-year-old Scotches and twenty-year-old tawny ports, this little wine bar has an extensive variety of shooters, including the Jolly Rancher, lemon drop, chocolate cake (citrus vodka and Frangelico), bad apple and T. Rex. Add to that a selection of "Bombs" — liqueur mixed with Red Bull and slammed in a shot — and not one but two different martini lists, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

After determining after a few sips that we don't get paid enough to suffer through an entire Rock Startini, we went whole hog and ordered the sliders — three thick mini-burgers served with a choice of slaw, French fries, fruit or cottage cheese. Which meant that we needed a wine, and so we went for a $12 glass of Benton-Lane, an Oregon pinot noir grown in the Willamette Valley. Wine Spectator recently named Benton-Lane as one of its top 100 wines of 2006, after awarding it 90 points earlier in the year.

The sliders were great, and the Benton-Lane was fantastic: a vibrant, clean wine that hit with vanilla and a lot of blackberry, then vanished into thin air with just a touch of a finish. A sip suggested an Audrey Hepburn dream that you barely remember but know was very, very luscious.

Kind of like Roxane, with its red velvet curtains, black tables, blond wood floors and pretty brunette servers. Part of the Momos-Boogaloo-Cyrano's-Mira restaurant family, Roxane butts up against Mira and shares a kitchen with it. It does well during happy hour, and its big windows look out over Meramec Avenue, where during the holiday season the trees twinkle with white lights. On this night, the street is quiet; it's after dinnertime but before the night owls fly. As we stare out the window and enjoy a slider and a sip of pinot, a crumple of shiny red wrapping paper rolls like tumbleweed down the avenue. Here in Clayton, even the trash is fancy.

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