On Tuesday, June 30, 200 sommeliers, restaurateurs and journalists gathered to celebrate Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 100 Wine Restaurants of 2015.
Despite threats of rain, the clouds held back as guests entered the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Early arrivals were treated to a panel discussion with representatives of the list. Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa moderated a lively discussion of the emerging trends in American dining and wine drinking featuring Jeff Porter, beverage operations director of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group; Ryan Hardy, chef/partner of Charlie Bird; and Lee Campbell, wine director of Reynard at Wythe Hotel, Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman’s and Achilles Heel.
“The role of the sommelier is that of translator,” said Kostrzewa. Campbell echoed the statement, saying, “The first chance to translate wine language is when you buy the wine. As a buyer, there are more new, hip, boutique producers than ever, and my challenge is sifting through the choices.”
When asked to predict the next frontiers of wine and food culture, Porter suggested smaller cities like Durham, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh as locales attracting new talent. Hardy, on the other hand, predicts a new renaissance for New York City.
“New York City used to be the town that won awards, where people left for other towns after cutting their teeth. But we’re not losing talent, and the city will always be a place attracting people ready to work in the big leagues.”
Following the panel, representatives of the restaurants on the list were honored with Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Wine Restaurant plaques in the hotel garden, while other attendees dined on passed bites from Reynard’s kitchen, including duck liver mousse, lobster sandwiches and succulent spicy chicken.
Guests also mingled in the Wythe Hotel’s Main Hall, sipping cocktails like the Meletti Spritzer—a mix of Meletti Amaro and 1870 Bitter Aperitivo, topped with club soda and an orange zest—and the refreshing Hendrick’s Gin-based sparkling cucumber lemonade, courtesy of William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd. Other crowd-pleasers included the Reyka Refresher Course, a lemon and thyme-infused sipper, and the Stormy Shipwreck, a modern nod to the Dark & Stormy. Meanwhile, attentive mixologists offered pours like LaLuca Prosecco, Carpineto 2009 Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon and Cesari 2010 Jèma Corvina, offered by Opici Wines, throughout the evening.