Renovation and innovation: French restaurant rebuilds, rebounds with stellar spirits

It’s been a rough year for Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt. But the owners of Marche Bacchus are determined to close it out in style — with the help of the occasional stiff drink.

In February, a pickup truck crashed into the storefront of their wine store and French restaurant on the Desert Shore community’s Lake Jacqueline. Nobody was injured, but major renovations were required.

While sprucing up the place, the pair decided to install a gorgeous abalone shell bar, and apply for their first hard liquor license.

When you’re known as one of the best spots in the suburbs for wine and French cuisine, any spirits you raise for a toast need to be top of the line. Jeff has assembled a collection of over 40 single-malt Scotch whiskies, more than a dozen Armagnacs and cognacs, and two styles of La Fée absinthe served traditional style: by dripping water from a glass tower onto a sugar cube balanced on a spoon atop the glass.

“The owner of La Fée came in and gave me one of the two water towers that they had because he knows I drink it all the time,” Jeff says.

Even tequila is well-represented, through offerings such as 18-year-old Fuenteseca Reserve Extra Anejo 1995 and a rare crystal decanter of Tres Quatro Y Cinco, with an elongated neck. It contains a blend of three extra-anejos aged three, four and five years in cognac barrels.

“What it gives you is this big cognac effect,” Jeff explains. “You can see by the color alone: it’s dark, really dark. And you get those cognac flavors and caramelization that work really, really well in tequilas.”

A dozen signature cocktails also are available, including a tribute to the couple’s friend, the late Robin Leach: a vodka martini called Caviar Dreams. Guests have a choice of six of what Jeff considers “the best vodkas in the world” (including Jewel of Russia and Beluga Noble Gold), garnished with a dollop of Bulgarian osetra caviar on a mother of pearl spoon.

With reconstruction complete, Rhonda hopes to end this difficult year on a positive note. Reflecting on the experience, she says, “We took lemons, and made Limoncello.”