Some restaurants pride themselves on expansive, encyclopedic wine lists, while others opt to specialize. Such laser-focused lists might highlight a geographic area, or bottles made by underrepresented communities. Each offer wine lovers and newbies alike the chance to dive deep into a region or style.
Here are six standout, single-focus wine lists at restaurants nationwide.
Kafana, New York City
Other standouts include the Kremen Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon from winemaker Nikola Mladenovic Matalj in Serbia, the crisp white Graševina from celebrated Croatian winery Enjingi, and a barrel-aged Vranac from Montenegro’s Plantaže.
The selection of Slovenian and northeastern Italian orange wines from the likes of Clai, Gravner, Kabaj, Dario Prinčič and more is not just a study in the changing borders of the region, but also a potential master class in Old World natural wines beyond Georgia.
According to Joseph Carnahan, the general manager/wine director of this West Town beer hall, this is one of the only places in Chicago to serve Roter Veltliner, an indigenous Austrian white grape.
The list focuses on grapes and bottlings from German-speaking countries and regions, featuring Cabernet Dorio, Gemischter Satz and an array of Rieslings. For those interested in expanding their German-accented wine knowledge, Carnahan often lists two dissimilar versions made from the same grape to showcase their versatility.
Bar Sótano, Chicago
Sleek Bar Sótano’s abbreviated menu of tacos, seafood and Mexican-style bar food is complemented by an even more curated selection of the country’s wines.
The only white wine on the list, a 2019 Manaz Blanco from Casa Magoni Winery in Valle de Guadalupe, is a blend of Viognier and Fiano. Red wines include a 2017 Paoloni Cabernet-Merlot blend and a 2016 Nebbiolo from Topolovino Baja, both also from Valle de Guadalupe. Rosé lovers can pair their Sótano Burger or Huitlacoche Sopes with a glass of Tacha, a Grenache rosé from Aborigen Winery in the Ojos Negros Valley.
The list may be small, but it’s a huge celebration of Mexican wine.
Dirt Candy, New York City
Dirt Candy only serves bottles from women-led wineries, where the owners, vineyard managers or winemakers all identify as female.
“Another way of looking at it is that we choose to serve wines from the best wineries we can find, and lucky for us that a lot of them are run by women,” says Michael Cherry, the beverage director.
Dirt Candy’s list changes frequently. “There are so many women winemakers to be excited about,” says Cherry. “Martha Stoumen and Brianne Day regularly appear on our list, alongside Megan Bell from Margins Wine, Elisabetta Foradori, Valerie Tissot, Sybille Kuntz and Claire Naudin. There are women making delicious wines in every appellation.”
Washington State Wine
The Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla, WA
When it comes to West Coast wines, California and Oregon bottlings often steal the spotlight. But this Walla Walla hotel highlights what Washington State, the third-largest wine producer in the country, has to offer.
Two signature white wines, a barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style blend, were made for the hotel’s restaurant and its Vineyard Lounge by winemaker Marty Clubb of Columbia Valley’s L’Ecole No 41. Other Evergreen State wineries on the menu include Poet’s Leap, Dusted Valley and Lodmell Cellars from Columbia Valley. The Walla Walla Valley is represented by the likes of Pepper Bridge Winery, Lagana Cellars and Tertulia Cellars.
Republic of Georgia Wines
Supra, Washington, D.C.
In 2017, when Jonathan & Laura Nelms prepared to open Supra, “we got a lot of advice about not concentrating too much on Georgian wine,” says Jonathan. Luckily, they chose to ignore it and built a wine list that celebrates the country’s 8,000-year-old winemaking history.
Supra’s qveri-aged “amber wine” selections include Shumi Winery, Shalauri Cellars and Dakishvili Family Vineyards. There’s also multiple expressions of Georgia’s Rkatsiteli and Saperavi grapes.
The Nelms and their team “love using the wines and the food to introduce people to Georgia in general,” says Jonathan. “Most of our guests are aware that there is such a country, but there are still a lot of people who know next to nothing about the country and its culture. The wine is an eye-opening and delicious and fun way to start that conversation.”