Where better to enjoy food and wine together than in the nation’s most exclusive wine cellar dining rooms?
Fine dining should be a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. I’ve dined on mountaintops, sipping Cabernet and watching snow fall outside frosty windows. At an oceanfront restaurant, a chilled Sauvignon Blanc and the lapping surf cooled me in the tropical heat. In a jungle boma, the late-night cries of wild beasts were served up with our Port and Stilton.
Atmosphere is vital to the enjoyment of fine food and wine. And where better to blend the two than in a cellar surrounded by rare vintages? Fortunately, restaurateurs across the United States are echoing this sentiment, crafting intimate dining spaces inside the traditional hidey-holes of their sommeliers.
Whether you are savoring a meal as a couple or with a crowd, we’ve found the nation’s best cellars in which to dine. Some of the restaurants are famous, others are new or not so well-known. From five-star to fresh on the scene, from Boston to Honolulu, dive in and become a cellar dweller.
THE FEDERALIST RESTAURANT/XV BEACON HOTEL
The brick-and-limestone Beaux Arts building that houses the XV Beacon Hotel holds a dining treat in its heart. Tucked away beneath The Federalist Restaurant is The Wine Cellar, a private dining room with rich mahogany tables and seats up to 40 guests. The handsome room, with its double-vaulted ceiling and caged glass walls, even houses some 18th century wines. The Fed’s extensive wine collection includes such jewels as a bottle of 1907 Heidsieck Monopole Champagne salvaged from a schooner sunk by a German U-boat, and a 1937 Domaine Romanée-Conti. The list is deep in classic Bordeaux, boasting 22 vintages of d’Yquem, 41 vintages of Lafite, 39 vintages of Pétrus and 64 vintages of Latour.
Chef Eric Brennan keeps a rooftop herb garden and tanks full of fish—believe us, everything on the menu (from New England Clambake to Beef Wellington) is as fresh as it can be.
· Number of seats: 40
· Number of bottles: 23,000
· Number of different wines: 1,860
· Decor: Vaulted ceiling, cobblestone floors, mahogany dining tables, low flower centerpieces, candlelight.
· Much of the rare collection is on display, including vintage Armagnacs and Cognacs.
· Expect sommelier Christian Vassilev to pop in and out as he makes selections for other diners.
The Federalist Restaurant
15 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
New York, NY
Executive Chef Rick Moonen and Sommelier Doug Bernthal take an international approach to seafood (and their extensive wine list) in this midtown restaurant. Classical cooking anchors Oceana’s menu, which includes yellowfin tuna sashimi, butter-poached lobster and asparagus flan. Their tasting dinner consists of six courses, each accompanied by wines from Oceana’s collection. The wine list offers rare vintages and hard-to-find bottles from small producers.
In keeping with the seafood menu, the wine list is heavy on such white wines as Riesling and Chenin Blanc, as well as an extensive collection of white Burgundies (135 labels). Thirty wines are offered by the glass.
· Number of seats: 24
· Number of bottles: 40,000
· Number of different wines: 1,000
· Decor: Below street level, the wine cellar is a private room that features white linen, gleaming silver and delicate crystal. The terra-cotta tiles, wrought-iron wine racks and brick walls evoke memories of dining in a French cave. A single long table comfortably seats 6 to 24 people.
· Though Oceana’s is a working wine cellar, many of the finest red wines are stored upstairs at the bar.
55 East 54th Street
New York, NY 10022
|This remote lodge, located a three-hour drive from Madison and two hours east of Minneapolis, is the only Relais & Chateaux member in the Midwest. The cedar, glass and stone dining room overlooks private Lake Wahdoon. Canoe Bay has 17 rooms and cottages. This is a secret hideaway for couples only—Canoe Bay doesn’t allow children. |
There is only one table—a table for four—in the wine cellar. Chef Scott Johnson and proprietor-sommelier Dan Dobrowolski work together to pair wines and food featuring, naturally, a wide selection of local Wisconsin cheeses, including six-year-aged cheddar. The menu favors organic products, and features fresh, creative dishes such as Wisconsin rainbow trout dusted in cranberry butter sauce and local lamb chops with Port reduction.
· Number of seats: 4
· Number of bottles: 2,500 on display; 5,400 total
· Number of different wines: 500 on dis- play; 750 total
· Decor: Redwood cellar with stone floor, Honduran mahogany tasting table, mission-style chandelier.
· Unique racking displays and peek-a-boo windows into main hallway.
16065 Hogback Road
Chetek, WI 54728
Located on the Chattahoochee River, Canoe was launched in 1995 by Gerry Klaskala, who was previously the chef at the popular Buckhead Diner. Kevin Good is the sommelier. Typical menu items include seared Hudson Valley foie gras with figs and white truffle honey served with De Bortoli Black Noble; sage-roasted Carolina pheasant with red-wine apple conserve paired with Ken Wright’s Guadaloupe Vineyard Pinot Noir; and sturgeon wrapped in bacon with celery-root risotto and cider vinegar sauce served with a dry Riesling from Chehalem.
· Number of seats: 20
· Number of bottles: 300 on display;
· Number of different wines: 75 on display
· Decor: The wine cellar features brick walls with cherry cabinets. A natural plank wood table holds the culinary offerings. The walls are adorned with canvases from local artists.
4199 Paces Ferry Road, NW
Atlanta, GA 30339
St. Louis, MO
The Wine Room at this landmark hotel is the largest in St. Louis, and also the largest in the Ritz-Carlton chain. The list of 500 wines includes such rarities as the 1928 Château Lafite-Rothschild and numerous Napa Valley standouts. Menus are customized to the group, event and budget. Dishes served range from sushi or smoked salmon with golden Osetra caviar to wild boar and rattlesnake empanadas, with wines selected to match each course.
· Number of seats: 40
· Number of bottles: 8,000
· Number of different wines: 500
· Decor: The Wine Room features walls lined with 1,029 mahogany wine bins, unusual vine-shaped doors crafted from glass and iron, Murano glass sconces and a mural depicting an Italian vineyard.
· For special events, Director of Wine Jonathan Burge discusses wine and food pairings prior to each course. Individual wine room memberships include monthly wine tastings and seminars, exclusive opportunities to dine in The Wine Room and additional “member only” nights throughout the year.
100 Carondelet Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63105
THE MANSION ON TURTLE CREEK
One of a handful of both five-star and five-diamond restaurants in the country, The Mansion on Turtle Creek is acclaimed worldwide. Extraordinary grace defines this historic 1920s estate, inspired by the colors and textures of the Italian Renaissance. The Mansion exudes the intimate ambiance of a private residence, with hand-carved fireplaces, marble floors, inlaid wood ceilings and stained-glass windows.
Chef Dean Fearing’s adventurous creations are inspired by Southwestern cuisine: His signature dishes include lobster tacos and tortilla soup. A seven-course tasting menu is available. Cellar rarities include 1929 Château Latour for $6,000.
· Number of seats: 14
· Number of bottles: 10,000
· Number of different wines: 674
· Decor: The cellar is from the original structure, built in the 1920s. Bins filled with bottles line the walls, while a low ceiling, soft lighting, stained wood and a heavy carved-wood table lend romance. A winding, almost secret, staircase leads to the cellar.
· The cellar was originally a silver and fur storage vault. Since the cellar is kept at a cool temperature, silk wraps are offered for the ladies.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek
2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard
Dallas, TX 75219
Website: www. mansiononturtlecreek.com
INN OF THE ANASAZI
Santa Fe, NM
The Inn of the Anasazi captures the essence of Southwestern culture in architecture, decor and cuisine. The main restaurant in the 59-room inn is elegantly earthy, with its wood floor, rough-hewn tables, and booths upholstered in hand-woven textiles from nearby Chimayo.
But it is the wine cellar that provides the ultimate in private dining. Chef Tom Kerpon and Food and Beverage Manager Jacques Constant team up to provide wine pairings for dishes that honor the Native American, the Northern New Mexican and the American cowboy. For wine cellar parties, Kerpon creates special tasting menus and game dishes featuring elk, venison and buffalo.
· Number of seats: 12
· Number of bottles: 4,000-6,000
· Number of different wines: 290-350
· Decor: Wine is racked on two walls, and decor is an interpretation of the Southwestern lifestyle.
· The large wooden dining table was assembled in the room. The sugar pine doors were handcrafted especially for the cellar by Jeremy Morelli and designed to resemble the colorful, hand-woven rugs hung in doorways by Native Americans. At the rear of the wine cellar is a large, rough-hewn mesquite serving table.
· Besides being a working wine cellar, regular patrons’ privately owned wines are stored here.
Inn of the Anasazi
Sante Fe, NM 87501
THE SARDINE FACTORY
Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino, co-owners of this Cannery Row restaurant, long dreamed of a special use for the cellar below their restaurant’s glass-domed Conservatory. Craig Clark, a Sardine Factory sommelier—and also a master craftsman—was asked to make this dream come true. Fire bricks from the old canneries make up the basic framework of the room and catacombs. Cellar master Andrea Fulton-Higgins and Chef Robert Mancuso work to pair wines with the cuisine, which centers around seafood and prime beef.
· Number of seats: 26
· Number of bottles: 25,000
· Number of different wines: 1,300
· Decor: The wood trim is almost all California redwood, much of which is from the Big Sur forest. The 25-foot-long banquet table, Cognac bar, Cognac locker and tobacco humidor are all built from a single 1,000-year-old redwood tree. Banks of wine bins are also made from locally cut redwood.
· Craig Clark, the creator and builder of the wine cellar, is the host and server. The artifacts in the room are all genuine antiques. Dating from the 16th century, the chandelier and candelabra were discovered in a Spanish abbey. The circa-1860 gold-leaf mirrors are from England.
The Sardine Factory
701 Wave Street
Monterey, CA 93940
THE SUTTON PLACE HOTEL
Newport Beach, CA
The stylish Sutton Place Hotel has a distinctly French flavor. The extensive wine collection contains one of the largest private holdings of Bordeaux, including Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Pétrus and Haut-Brion.
Wine is serious business at Sutton Place, where every month a new wine is introduced to complement the hotel’s gourmet cuisine, created by Chef Laurent Mechin. Food and Beverage Manager Jean-Francois Casanova pairs wines with such dishes as sautéed foie gras, Maine lobster and Chilean sea bass. Some of California’s top Cabernet producers have been contracted to create an exclusive Bordeaux-style red wine to the hotel’s specifications. Chateau Montelena produced the latest version from the acclaimed 1997 vintage.
· Number of seats: 16
· Number of bottles: 5,000 on display; 20,000 total
· Number of different wines: 300
· Decor: The cellar walls are adorned with oversize label replicas signed by Christian Moueix of Pétrus and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild. Mahogany wine racks, Riedel crystal and silver decanting accessories add to the elegance.
· Rare wines, like the legendary 1945 Château Latour and a six-liter bottle of 1990 Roederer Cristal, of which only 2,000 bottles were produced to commemorate the millennium, are displayed.
The Sutton Place Hotel
4500 MacArthur Boulevard
Newport Beach, CA 92660
THE WESTIN SALISHAN
Gleneden Beach, OR
Salishan is an oceanside, 205-room golf resort with views of the forest, golf course and Siletz Bay (an extension of the Pacific Ocean). Salishan is located 90 minutes from Portland along the scenic Oregon coast. The wine cellar is Salishan’s private dining facility, served by the four-star dining room.
For more than 35 years, Salishan has been known as one of the pioneers of Pacific Northwest cuisine. Executive Chef Noah Bekofsky rotates his menu on a regular basis to showcase Oregon’s outstanding seafood, game and produce. Entrees include pan-seared fresh Pacific Northwest halibut with wild nettle pasta and foraged vegetable ragout, and grilled filet of beef with spring morels and truffle potato croquettes.
Dinner in the wine cellar features custom, five-course tasting menus designed to pair with the wines being served. The restaurant has one of the world’s largest collections of Oregon Pinot Noir (more than 90 labels).
· Number of seats: 24
· Number of bottles: 6,500 on display; 8,000 total
· Number of different wines: 550
· Decor: Subdued lighting, dark hardwood shelving and earthenware tile.
· Wine cellar patrons should expect to interact with the staff as they go about selecting wine for diners above.
The Westin Salishan
Gleneden Beach, OR 97388
El Gaucho is a retro restaurant featuring huge portions, and beef is king. Chef Ken Sharp commands the exhibition kitchen in which 28-day dry-aged prime angus beef, chops, ribs, poultry and fresh seafood are prepared over a bed of glowing coals.
Tableside preparations of salads, flaming swords of shish kabobs, and flambé desserts add drama to the dining experience.
El Gaucho has four private dining rooms, including The 410 Room, which is a working wine cellar. The 410 Room is named in honor of Victor Rosselini, the mentor of many Seattle restaurateurs.
· Number of seats: 8
· Number of bottles: 8,000 bottles
· Number of different wines: 390
· Decor: The 410 Room showcases a silver display, a round wooden table and wooden wine racks.
2505 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
DIAMOND HEAD GRILL/W HOTEL
Nestled at the base of Diamond Head crater, a short walk from Waikiki, this trendy restaurant offers a commanding view of the famous crater and Kapiolani Park from its second-story perch in the W Honolulu Hotel. Opened in December 1999, the restaurant offers chef Todd Constantino’s Hawaiian regional cuisine, including signature items such as Opakapaka with Kahuku corn, and seafood linguine with tomato lobster broth. The dining room was designed by Steve Jones, who designed many of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants.
The Chef’s Table, a private room for parties of up to 10 people, doubles as a wine cellar. Menus and wine pairings can be tailored to the personal taste of the party.
· Number of seats: 10
· Number of bottles: 900
· Number of different wines: 300
· Decor: A touch of glass. One glass wall showcases wines stored at 65°F, while the two end walls are also glass, in the form of wine racks depicting ocean waves. A Dakota Jackson-designed wood table set with Mikasa china, Riedel crystal, sterling silver cutlery and custom-crafted Irish linen finish the setting.
· A semi-sheer drawn curtain on the restaurant side of the wine room gives guests the choice of real privacy or being “on stage” to other restaurant patrons.
· Wine steward Kevin Yoo often enters the room to select wines for fellow diners.
Diamond Head Grill
2885 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815