Pontchartrain Wine Cellars

As I was looking at my collection of matchbooks, I looked at a place that was legendary when I was a kid.  Most of the fine restaurants were still located in Downtown Detroit, and since I went to school Downtown, I thought of myself as rather cosmopolitan.  The Pontchartrain Wine Cellars was across the street from the Pontchartrain Hotel and across from the original Cobo Hall.  It was one of the fancy French restaurants of the era, and it was a very popular place for business men and big dates.  It was one of the original bistros in the area and while they had a great wine list, they had no hard liquors, which was unique in that time and era.  This was where I was introduced to my Vermouth Cocktail for a before dinner drink, much to the consternation of most of today’s bartenders, as they always have to ask what it is, usually through the waiter.  It is a very easy drink as it is equal parts dry and sweet vermouth with a splash of bitters, but it does awake the taste buds for a fine meal.  Legend has it, that Cold Duck originated at the bistro in 1937 and that it was a mixture of a Mosel wine, a Rhine wine and Champagne.  Tradition has it, that it was done with left over wines that were opened and not finished.

 Aloxe-Corton (Bolter) 1970

I remember going there and starting off with Escargot, which was not a common offering back in the day, followed by another curiosity back then a bowl of French Onion soup.  I also had one of my favorite dishes of my youth, which is no longer in vogue, a plate of Frog Legs Provencal.  I finished the meal with my introduction to Peach Melba and of course a glass of Cold Duck.  I cannot remember what my date had, but I do remember that she was shocked that I was dining on frog legs, as that was a creature that one dissected in a Biology class in High School.

 MI Pontchartrain Wine Cellars MB

It was also one of the first bottles of Pinot Noir that I had, but under a different name. It was a Negociants bottle of Burgundy wine, from one of the famed villages of the Cote de Beaune, namely an Aloxe-Corton 1970.  Aloxe-Corton has one Grands Cru and several Premiers Crus, but this was a village blend, as if there is anything prosaic about a wine from this village.  After looking at what I dined on that evening, you and probably the waiter both think I was a heretic, but that was early in my wine days, and I could not pass up on a chance to try the wine, and I really did not like to order steaks back then in a restaurant.  Suffice it to say that this wine was wonderful to me, and I sometimes wish that I could find, let alone afford to buy wines of this nature anymore.  I mean when you start out trying some of the greatest Pinot Noir wines, as I did back then, is it any wonder that I can still wax poetic about it.

About thewineraconteur

A non-technical wine writer, who enjoys the moment with the wine, as much as the wine. Twitter.com/WineRaconteur Instagram/thewineraconteur Facebook/ The Wine Raconteur
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13 Responses to Pontchartrain Wine Cellars

  1. K Lund says:

    Enjoyed your post about the Wine Cellars-I have the same fond memories. I was fortunate enough to get the recipe from Joe Beyer-he gave me a bottle of each; New York Sparking Wine fermented in the bottle and still burgundy wine. I searched for the hollow stem glasses and was able to find some at a antique store. When the restaurant closed, Dumouchelle Art/Auction Gallery held an auction where I bid on and won the two dated 1938 enamel signs that were outside the entrance to the restaurant. They have been hanging in my office now for 20 yrs-If interested, I am thinking of selling them… Thank you!

    • Thank you for stopping by and it sounds like you have a great piece of Detroit history. I would like something like that, but my Bride thinks I have enough eclectic collections in the house, but I am sure that it will be appreciated in the proper setting.
      – John

    • craig says:

      I maybe interested in those signs. My grandfather HH Borgman founded the Pontchartrain. I went to that auction as well to try and pick up on some memorobilia that I thought should never had left the family. Send me an email if you still have those signs or any other items. Thanks

      • Linda Yardley says:

        Hi Craig,
        I don’t know if you’ll get this but I was reading this blog because I am trying to find the salad dressing recipe from the WIne Cellars. They used to sell the dressing by the bottle and my parents used to bring it home. They were such frequent customers, my mother managed to get the recipe…but we have lost it. Also, my step-father’s name is Harry Borgman. From Detroit. But as far has he knows, no relation to your grandfather. Please email me at minnellayardley@gmail. com if you have the salad dressing recipe. Thanks, Linda Yardley

    • Hello
      My Grandfather (Harold Borgman) was the founder of the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars and creator of the Cold Duck. I would love to buy any memrobilia from the restaurant. I do remember those enamel auto club signs.

      • Mr. Farkas, thank you for stopping by, and I do remember your Grandfather’s establishment. Alas, I do not know anyone that acquired any of those neat items that were displayed and I think of them often, when the restaurant is mentioned. Good luck in your pursuit.

  2. john melnik says:

    K Lund… are those two signs still available for sale?

    if yes, pls let me know via an email to …. john.a.melnik@gmail.com

    along with you, I thoroughly enjoyed dining at the wine cellars back in the day.

  3. Becky brofman says:

    So much fun to come across your posting! My father, Joe Beyer, the PWC owner, would not have had a problem with your wine selection. Did you end up marrying this date? I would not be surprised. I’m glad the PWC elicits such fond memories.


    Becky Beyer Brofman.

  4. Bob Monement says:

    Enjoyed the article. Lunch at “the Pontch” was a regular thing when I was a copywriter at Detroit’s big ad agencies and suppliers were paying the tab. Great for dates, also. Only recently confirmed that the Monkey Glandee sauce that came with my entrees has nothing to do with monkeys.

  5. Renee says:

    just acquired 3 sconces made of real wood roots that came from the wine cellar. I plan to give these to my husband for our anniversary where we will find a home for them in our cottage and/or barn. Do you have any pictures of these that I can print and give with the fixtures.

    • Renee, I wish I could help you with that, but I have no collection of photographs from the restaurants, just plenty of memories. The sconces sound like fun and will be a great conversation piece where ever you decide to hang them. You might try the Burton Collection at the main Detroit Library. Thank you for stopping by. – John

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