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The evidence of Mark Slater’s move to Ray’s the Steaks can be found all around the host stand at this Arlington steakhouse. Cases of wine are stacked everywhere — on the floor, on chairs, on top of wine cabinets — as if the place should actually be called Ray’s the Glass.  (Capital Spice gets all the credit for that one.)

I’m not very orthodox when it comes to wine pairings, as you might tell from this post. If you can find a good Gewürz that pairs well with steak — good luck with that — then I say knock yourself out. You won’t hear a peep from me. So I was reviewing the damn fine wine menu at Ray’s, trying to find something new (or new to me) that would pair with my ribeye with horseradish cream sauce.

Given those flavors, I figured I’d need a wine big enough to swallow Michael Moore. And the last thing I wanted was another California cab that tastes like someone poured Mexican vanilla into a bucket of fermented blackberry juice. I clearly needed Slater’s help.

Slater suggested a bottle of 2008 Mollydooker’s Two Left Feet, which, given that name, could only mean one thing. It’s Australian. Slater fetched the bottle for us and proceeded to open it table-side for the standard tasting. I was ready for Slater to pull out his wine key, flip it open with the switchblade flash of a gangland hoodlum, and pry that cork as smoothly as if he were pulling his finger from a loose-fitting ring. I was ready for ceremony and a story.

Then, in a split second, Slater screwed the top off the bottle.

Nevermind, the wine was thrill enough. The juice is darker than ink on a blackboard, and if there’s a wine that defines “chewy,” it’s this blend of shiraz (68 percent), merlot (17 percent), and cabernet sauvignon (15 percent). Yes, there was vanilla on the palate, but I also detected chocolate, black fruit, and the mad laughing spirit of 1,000 drunk Aussies. The wife and I drank every last drop.

Now, you want big? Two Left Feet packs one solid punch of 16 percent alcohol. You want a bargain? Well, I can’t say this bottle exactly conforms to owner Michael Landrum‘s notion of “subverting” standard restaurant wine markups. Today, I bought the exact same bottle from Calvert Woodley for $25.99. I paid $50 for the bottle at Ray’s, which is a pretty standard 100 percent markup.

It’s hard to feel ripped-off about paying a 100 percent markup for wine in a restaurant, and I don’t feel ripped-off. Perhaps betrayed, but not ripped-off. I think I’ll drown that feeling by twisting off the cap of my latest bottle of Two Left Feet.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery