Best By-The-Glass Lists
Commitment-phobes, we’re talking to you: While some restaurants have cellars so vast they can boast more than 100 wines by the glass—increasing the possibilities for exciting wine-and-food pairings—others use the latest in wine technology: the Coravin system. So how does it work?
Despite a few growing pains—Coravin issued a safety notice as this issue was going to press and is creating a remedy package after several bottles reportedly broke, possibly due to bottle integrity issues—the innovation pierces a bottle’s cork with a long, thin needle while simultaneously injecting it with inert argon gas, extracting wine while preserving the remaining juice. Allowing wine lovers to tap into top bottles again and again, the Coravin extends a bottle’s life for months. And sommeliers are taking full advantage, not letting a precious drop of juice go to waste.
This classic Tampa steakhouse doesn’t plan to incorporate the Coravin system anytime soon. With 7,000 wines on the list and a cellar of some 600,000 bottles, Bern’s instead offers a traditional but extensive by-the-glass wine program. With 150 options—the most on our restaurant list—guests can opt for pours of one, two-and-a-half or five ounces. The restaurant also offers nightly tours of its wine cellars following dinner, in case your inner wine geek hasn’t already been sated.
Alongside the 50 by-the-glass options, Jaime Kaloustian, the beverage director, offers a reserve pairing list. It allows guests to sample rare pours like a 2004 Sauternes from Rousset Peyraguey.
“You can describe a wine to someone, you can have them look up tasting notes online, but tasting is tantamount to knowing the wine’s style,” she says.
The Coravin lets guests forge their own wine experience. “Guests can choose a few different options of rare bottles by the glass, instead of committing to one pricey bottle,” says Kaloustian.
Armed with a Coravin, co-owner Neal McCarthy (pictured) seeks to elevate the wine experience of Miller Union’s guests, who come for the sustainable farm fare and primarily organic and biodynamic wine list.
“I only open two to three bottles a night, but I want my staff to crack open bottles they love,” says McCarthy. “Some guests won’t commit to a bottle of New York’s Bedell Cellars’s Gallery white blend at $84, but their interest is piqued with a $20 glass that a server talks up.”
For Danny Fisher, Ripple’s beverage director, the Coravin invites wine exploration.
“It helps people step back from all the varieties they already know,” Fisher says. And with a 400-bottle list of primarily small-production wines, the wine program aims for value and diversity, with 75 wines under $50 a bottle, and 50 by-the-glass choices.
“It’s not necessarily about trying that bigger price point, but tasting esoteric wines like Steve Matthiasson’s California Ribolla Gialla,” Fisher says.
“Nothing is off limits,” says Chad Zeigler, the head sommelier, of using the Coravin. “We can push the limits of what people expect us to pour.”
To wit, at the restaurant’s fifth-anniversary tasting, Zeigler’s team poured a Domaine des Comtes Lafon 1990 Meursault-Perrières Premier Cru, but sold it by the glass.
“We had two bottles, which we sold in an hour,” says Zeigler. “It’s not sustainable, but it’s fun to see our guests try these wines they’d otherwise be unable to taste.”
This 350-bottle wine list has a laser-like focus on New World pours from Oregon and Washington, matching the kitchen’s obsession with Pacific Northwest ingredients. With the Coravin, Anna Downing, the private events director and a sommelier, is happy to guide intrepid wine lovers toward new sips.
“The Coravin allows us to tap into older vintages of Oregon Pinot,” says Downing. “It lets us show off the depth and breadth of the wine list, as well as the longevity of these wines.”
- 2Bern’s Steak House
- 4Miller Union
- 7Urban Farmer