Top One-Track Wine Lists
Forget encyclopedic wine bibles that attempt to cover every region on Earth. Sommeliers who take a narrow focus can still yield a world of imaginative wine-pairing possibilities.
These inspired single-focus lists—where most or all bottles are from one country, region or style—are trendy in today’s dining scene. They steer hesitant customers toward new favorites, or indulge passions for specific wine categories like vintage Napa bottlings, indigenous Italian varieties or simply some good bubbly (read: Champagne).
Focuses on: Champagne
With 120-plus selections, service in Riedel Burgundy stemware (which “helps remind guests that Champagne should be enjoyed regularly, not just for celebrations,” says David Speer, the sommelier/owner) and maybe the lowest markups in the country, Ambonnay is the Champagne bar to beat. “A big discovery for guests has been the Pinot Meunier Champagnes, like Laherte Frères Vignes d’Autrefois Extra Brut,” says Speer.
Photo: Jannie Huang
Focuses on: Spanish wine
Befitting their traditional-with-a-twist Spanish menu, 95% of Estadio’s 400-label wine list hails from Spain, from old-school Rioja to funky new producers. A “Raro y Viejo” section includes gems back to 1925.
Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg
Focuses on: Washington state wines
“We are blessed to be in one of the world’s most exciting wine regions,” says Dan McCaffrey, the manager and sommelier, whose 239-bottle list focuses primarily on vintners and producers in Washington State.
“From the coastal climates of the West, to the desert climates of the East, Washington State is unmatched in varietals, styles and quality,” McCaffrey says.
Here, classic Pacific Northwest flavors like Dungeness crab, wild salmon and Walla Walla onions meet hard-to-find local bottles like the 2009 Garrison Creek Cellars Tempranillo, of which only 98 cases were made.
Focuses on: Napa wines
Wondering how the ’56 Beaulieu Vineyard Cab is holding up? Try it with local beef grilled over almond and cherry wood at Press, a virtual California wine museum with what they claim to be the largest all-Napa collection in the country.
Photo: Thomas Heinser
Focuses on: Sparkling wines
RM specializes in its namesake récoltant-manipulant, or grower Champagnes, with updated French-bistro specialties ranging from pissaladière (a flaky onion tart that’s Provence’s answer to pizza) to a decadent raw bar and quail-egg ravioli with chanterelles. The list offers 10–14 sparkling selections by the glass at any given time, and about 50 by the bottle. Did we mention everything goes with Champagne?
Photo: Potluck Creative
Focuses on: Italian wines
Now in its 30th year, this Chicago staple celebrates Italy’s diversity of both food (scallop with beef jowl and turnip, anyone?) and wine—the 700-label list even breaks down Barolo and Brunello by terroir.
“Other Italian wine lists only scratch the surface, but our list dissects each region completely,” says Chris Marchino, the executive chef (pictured). Helping diners explore the boot are 30 wines by the glass, along with 100 selections under $100.
Photo: Galdones Photography
- 4The Marc Restaurant
- 5PRESS St. Helena
- 6RM Champagne Salon