It is surprising to learn that this passionate young sommelier hails from Gourin, a small town in Brittany, one of the rare regions of France that has no vineyards. Jean Luc Le Dû came to the United States in 1985 at the age of nineteen, on a three week working vacation with hope of pursuing his interest in rock and roll. Lured by the possibilities, he stayed on to take his chances in the “land of opportunity”. He soon found that his French background was ideal for steady employment as a waiter.
Jean Luc recalls having his “wine epiphany” upon tasting a 1964 Cheval Blanc. From that moment on, he began combing wine shops, reading any wine related material he could get his hands on and taking every opportunity to taste. In 1992, he became a captain at New York’s Bouley restaurant, where for three years the Maitre d’ and fellow captains traded valuable wine discoveries with him.
In February 1995, Jean Luc joined DANIEL as a captain. His expertise and passion for wine soon convinced the Chef to make him the Sommelier, a position he has held with distinction since September 1996. Further proving his commitment and profound knowledge, Jean Luc was awarded first prize for the Northeastern US in the 1997 SOPEXA Sommelier Competition, as well as third place on the national level. In August 2002 Jean Luc Le Dû and his wine program at DANIEL received Wine Spectator magazine’s "Grand Award", the most prestigious wine award bestowed on a restaurant in America. Held by only a handful of establishments across the country, the honor places DANIEL's cellar among the top in the world, fulfilling a long-time dream for Jean Luc and his staff. Additional accolades include the James Beard Foundation 2000 nomination for "Outstanding Wine Service". Jean Luc Le Dû also consults for publications such as Wine & Spirits Magazine (member of advisory tasting panel) and provides wine parings for the monthly "Daniel's Dish" column in Elle Décor.
For DANIEL Jean Luc has compiled a wine cellar of over 24,000 bottles. The wine list of 1600 selections continues to expand and now includes fine wines from 15 countries. Above all, Jean Luc prides himself on discovering little known wine estates whose vintages he knows will delight, along with bottles that offer the finest value for money. Both are symbolic of his diverse wine list that continues to evolve with each bottle he lovingly adds.
Along with Chef Daniel Boulud, in December 2000, Jean Luc Le Dû introduced the restaurant’s first private label red Bordeaux. The first vintage to bear the name DANIEL was a 1998 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the Graves appellation. The medium-bodied, elegant wine has notes of dark ripe berries and hints of mocha, smoke and vanilla and has been aged in French oak for twelve months. This fine red Bordeaux is the collaborative fruit of two notable winemakers, Bernard Pujol, formerly of Château Pâpe Clément, and Hubert de Bouard, co-owner of Château l’Angelus. The cuvée DANIEL is served at the restaurant and is also available for sale at Sherry Lehman on Madison Avenue. In collaboration with Marne et Champagne, a DANIEL private label Champagne was introduced in 2001. Le Dû personally participated in the blending, after tasting as many as 20 cuvées, to find just the right balance of body, acidity and nutty overtones. The most recent addition to the private label collection is a Galuccio Cabernet Franc from New York State. Future projects include a private label Côtes du Rhône wine made in conjunction with Christophe and Aymé Sabon of Domaine de la Janasse in Châteauneuf du Pâpe.