We’ve mapped out our 100 favorite wine-savvy restaurants across the country, creating your go-to list for dining and drinking for the next year. Our list is packed with interviews with star sommeliers and chefs, essential pairing picks and top dining trends that are changing the way we eat and drink as a nation.
About: There’s just one seating four nights a week for Top Chef alum Edward Lee’s creative, Southern-leaning multicourse dinners, featuring ingredients grown in a new on-site greenhouse. There’s also a private “Wine Studio” across the street that hosts themed dinners, tastings, and classes.
Wine program: Ricardo Barillas, the general manager and beverage director, chooses wines with a strong sense of both terroir and the winemaker’s personal stamp, but always keeps an eye on the menu. “All of our wines are selected to work in harmony with the cuisine, not to compete with it,” he says.
Favorite pairing: Coffee and chicory rubbed rib-eye of beef with Périgord truffle, foie gras and truffle gratin, broccoli and sauce périgourdine, with H. Billiot Fils NV Brut Rosé Grand Cru Champagne.In 2010, Lee beat Iron Chef Jose Garces in the “Tongue and Cheek” battle on Iron Chef America.
About: Eli Kulp, the executive chef, and Jon Nodler, the chef de cuisine, reconfigured the menu last year to revolve around a Japanese-inspired hardwood charcoal grill at the center of its open kitchen. The kitchen-counter tasting menu allows diners to interact with the chefs.
Wine program: The list states that all the wines “are grown with minimal intervention in the vineyard or winery…without undue dependence upon manipulative technologies,” and offers anecdotal one-liners about each of the food-friendly bottles. “You’ll find a lot of offbeat wines, but also well-established appellations and iconic winemakers,” says Mariel Wega, the wine director.
Favorite pairing: Grilled squid stuffed with spicy ’nduja sausage and warm cilantro sauce, with Weingut Knauss Trollinger Rosé from Germany.
Fun facts: Kulp grew up in Mossyrock, Washington, a town with fewer residents than the restaurant serves in a night.
About: Two years into its expansive new location, Suzanne Goin’s Beverly Grove wine mecca still retains its sheen. In fact, it’s as buzzy as ever, with sommelier/owner Caroline Styne’s focused wine pairings playing off the overhauled California-inspired menu, which ranges from artful small plates to comforting shared platters.
Wine program: A.O.C. has a French-leaning list of boutique organic, sustainable and biodynamic producers. High-end pours share space with more affordable offerings, while domestic and emerging wine regions offer support.
Favorite pairing: Tuna meatballs, spiced tomato sauce, kumquats, mint and pea shoots, with Jean Foillard’s 2011 Côte du Py Morgon.
Fun facts: Goin and Styne are co-founders of L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, a fundraiser benefiting research for childhood cancer, which has raised over $1.5 million since its inception in 2010.
City: Los Angeles
About: Come for the creative wood-fired pizzas, stay for the growing wine list: “The Italian sparkling selections have increased, and it’s been exciting to discover wines from Calabria,” says the wine director/co-owner, Shelley Lindgren, of the Southern Italian wine collection that focuses on small producers.
Wine program: “The quality of Southern Italian wines, and their availability in the U.S. market, has grown so much,” says Lindgren. “To be able to offer dozens of wines from Mt. Etna in Sicily is so different from the three we could find when we opened in 2004.”
Favorite pairing: Braised half-chicken with preserved lemon, black olives, saffron and a little cinnamon, with Bonavita’s 2010 Faro, -a red blend from Sicily.
Fun facts: A16 is named for the highway that runs from Naples to Canosa, Puglia.
City: San Francisco
About: Three full-time sommeliers work the floor at this intimate, modern 40-seat restaurant, where the focus is firmly on Italian wines and food. The list yields 500 choices from Piedmont alone, yet “we, like many Italians, have a passion for Champagne, with around 150 selections,” says Gianpaolo Paterlini, the wine director. When possible, the list even cites disgorgement dates.
Wine program: The expansive list yields 500 choices from Piedmont alone, yet also features some 150 Champagne selections.
Favorite pairing: Rigatoni with foie gras and black truffle, with Maculan’s Torcolato, a late-harvest Vespaiola -from Veneto, Italy.
Fun facts: This year, Paterlini swapped out Champagne flutes for Zalto Champagne glasses. “While flutes are festive and fun, we feel they do a disservice to the wines by emphasizing bubbles and alcohol, instead of flavor and texture,” he says.
City: San Francisco
Addison at The Grand Del Mar
About: Elizabeth Huettinger, the wine director and a rising star, injects fresh energy into this fine-dining standby. In her short tenure, she’s boosted the grower Champagne selections and large-format wines on the already expansive list. She also frequently bucks convention, pairing one wine with two courses. “This allows the guest to see the way wine can change with different food item,” says Huettinger.
Wine program: Huettinger’s focus is on both adventurous finds and rare luxury bottles, with an extensive half-bottle selection. “Our goal is to have something for everyone, whether you’re looking for an affordable bottle from a small California producer or a 1982 Pétrus,” she says.
Favorite pairing: Chawanmushi (a Japanese egg custard) with Dungeness crab, with Emmerich Knoll 2012 Ried Kreutles Riesling Smaragd from the Wachau in Austria.
Fun facts: Rather than choosing one wine with a course, all pairings on the tasting menu are customized for each diner.
City: San Diego
About: “Wine and food should be friends, with zero pretense,” says Ryan Scott Wenger, the wine director. His Italian-leaning list matches the creative Italo-Mediterranean menu. “I feel that a well-balanced white can play just as well with a pasta as any Chianti or Brunello,” he says. “Having fun with wine and food is what we strive for.”
Wine program: The largely organic and/or biodynamic program has a strong Italian base, but ventures into Austria, Slovenia and even Croatia, showcasing less-known varieties. “Teaching a customer about a grape variety they’ve never heard of keeps my job interesting and enjoyable,” says Wenger.
Favorite pairing: Chopped salad, escolar crudo, chicken liver crostone and tortellini in brood , with Rojac’s Royaz, a sparkling Refosko-Syrah blend from Slovenia.
Fun facts: Chef Zach Pollack’s career started while studying architecture in Florence, Italy. He credits Florence’s open-air Mercato Centrale with inspiring him to pursue a life in food.
City: Los Angeles
About: Topping off stellar mountain-peak views (you’ll have to ride the gondola to get there), the menu at this ski-resort eatery slants modern American with a Colorado theme. Envision sustainably sourced elk on your plate, presented by servers who’ve achieved at least Level One certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Wine program: Allred’s varied, global list includes verticals of many trophy wines, horizontals from both famous and less-known growing regions, unique international varietals, a huge array of fortified and dessert wines and Coravin-poured rarities by the ounce.
Favorite pairing: Seared “French-hunter style” ahi tuna with local high-alpine mushrooms, with Rodney Strong 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.
Fun facts: Allred’s is located 10,551 feet above sea level.
About: This Wynwood Arts District newbie opened in May to immediate acclaim. Grab a seat at the four-person chef’s counter that faces the kitchen to watch chef/owner Bradley Kilgore garnish plates like kombu-cured wahoo crudo with daikon radish and varied local citruses with herbs from the restaurant’s own organic gardens.
Wine program: Alter offers two wine lists. A short list on the food menu offers options by the glass, quartino and bottle, with a focus on pairing and price flexibility. A second list is available upon request, with a deeper selection of wines as well as mature vintages and rare bottlings from Champagne, Burgundy and Piedmont.
Favorite pairing: Floridian clams with guitar noodles, lemon verbena, aromatic herbs coulis and burrata purée, with Andrea Felici 2013 Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore.
Fun facts: The “Wynwood Walls” complex near Alter features one of the largest ever-changing street art collections in the world. Over 50 artists from 16 countries have covered over 80,000 square feet of walls.
About: Expect a side of drama with your dinner here: There are flying “wine angels” who access bottles from a four-story tower to go with over-the-top dishes like French onion soup with foie gras and truffles. This is Vegas, after all. This year, the restaurant renewed its commitment to wine-related events with a series of tastings, seminars and dinners with visiting winemakers.
Wine program: Aureole’s epic wine list—especially strong in Bordeaux, Burgundy and California—is regularly refreshed to keep things interesting, adding “hot, new producers and up-and-coming wine regions,” says Harley Carbery, director of wine at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, where the restaurant is located.
Favorite pairing: Orange cream semifreddo flambé, passion vanilla reduction, honey-toasted rice crisp, with Kracher’s 1998 Nouvelle Vague No 13 Trockenbeerenauslese from Austria.
Fun facts: Chef Charlie Palmer is the chairman of the board at the Culinary Institute Of America, where he graduated in 1979.
City: Las Vegas
About: The wine director, Dana Frank, seeks out harmonious Italian mates for Joshua McFadden’s seasonal, Roman-inspired fare, like spaghetti with zucchini, ramps and chilies, and rib-eye with fava beans and anchovy butter.
Wine program: The all-Italian list is organized north to south, with pop-out boxes highlighting special DOCs, producers or styles of wines. It includes a wide selection of sparkling, pink, orange, apertivi and dessert wines. The majority of the list represents smaller wineries that work organically or biodynamically.
Favorite pairing: Grilled Rain Shadow El Rancho pork shoulder steak with local hazelnuts and apples, with the ViniRari 2010 Souches Mères from Valle d’Aosta.
Fun facts: Frank and her husband, Scott, make their own Loire-inspired Willamette Valley wines under the label Bow & Arrow.
About: On the plate and in the glass, Balena is committed to educating diners about Italy’s diversity, from hen egg tajarin pasta from Piedmont to a Puglia-inspired burrata with mustard seeds and pork lardo.
Wine program: The 99% Italian list covers each of Italy’s 20 regions, with maps, examples of local dishes and three tasting notes for each bottle. “Each region considers itself the ‘true’ Italy, with wildly different viticulture, food and traditions,” says Phillip Walters, the sommelier and co-owner. “We take pride in respecting and highlighting these differences.”
Favorite pairing: Braised short ribs with rutabaga purée, shaved Brussels sprouts and black pepper, with the Muri-Gries 2011Abtei-Muri Riserva Lagrein from Alto Adige.
Fun facts: Balena invites local chefs to create a “Guest Pizza of the Month.”
About: At this casual French bistro in Daniel Boulud’s wine-focused empire, Michael Madrigale, the head sommelier, has created a thrilling place to sip among classic dishes from Boulud’s native Lyon. Executive chef Oliver Quignon augments the menu with dishes that highlight his roots from Normandy and Northern France.
Wine program: The focus is on value and classic wines of Burgundy and the Rhône Valley (including affordable older vintages and a broad selection of Cru Beaujolais which is recommend with the famed charcuterie). Madrigale is working in variety, saying that, “after a revelatory trip to Napa Valley last fall, I’ve gone deep with classic Napa producers like Mayacamas, Sinskey and Forman.’
Favorite pairing: Coq au Vin with Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage
Fun facts: Bar Boulud has three private dining rooms: Caviste, Vigneron and Sommelier, with decor celebrating the history and culture of winemaking.
City: New York City
About: Benu’s innovative tasting menus might not seem wine-friendly at first glance (oyster with pork belly and kimchi; xiao long bao dumplings of lobster roe). But the pairings of Yoon Ha, the master sommelier, are as gutsy as the food, like braised abalone with oloroso Sherry.
Wine program: The tasting menu pairings often include saké, beer and fortified wine. The bottle list also looks to complement the pan-Asian flavors in creative ways, heavy on Austrian whites, Rhône reds, California Pinot and Burgundy.
Favorite pairing: “Shark’s fin” soup, Dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, and black truffle custard, with Blandy 1968 Verdelho Madeira.
Fun facts: Chef Corey Lee’s famed thousand-year-old quail egg is actually aged for a month after being tea-brined for several days.
City: San Francisco
Bern’s Steak House
About: Diners can still expect an epic wine list with 200 choices by the glass, old-school service, hefty steaks and 21 types of caviar at this renowned eatery. Building on the city’s up-and-coming brew scene, Bern’s is adding an experimental list of beers aged in house, some using recycled Bourbon barrels.
Wine program: Bern’s has one of the largest and deepest wine cellars in the world, with over 500,000 bottles. Around 150 wines are typically offered by-the-glass, in vintages dating back to 1973.
Favorite pairing: Broiled chateaubriand, with Clos du Val 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
Fun facts: The Henry Waugh Dessert Room, named for the former director of Château Latour and a friend of the restaurant founder Bern Laxer, is constructed from California redwood wine-holding tanks.
About: Perry Hendrix, the new chef de cuisine at this Second City favorite, has updated the menus with a modern Midwestern slant, which nods to the many cultures that call the area home. Try suckling goat with tomatillo, green almond, serrano chili and mint, or aged duck breast with pretzel dumplings, turnips, mustard and black beer broth.
Wine program: Within a framework of entirely French and American wines, Chris Nostvick, the wine director, seeks “wines that are at once familiar and esoteric, approachable and thought-provoking,” he says. “And if it’s on the list, I’ve tasted it.”
Favorite pairing: Milton cheddar with quince, pear and fresh horseradish, with Yves Breussin 2011 Demi-Sec Vouvray.
Fun facts: The restaurant is named for the French slang term for the Merlot grape.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
About: This farm-focused dining experience has nailed the pasture-to-plate format since 2004, building a reputation on innovative multi-taste “grazing, rooting and pecking” dinners with no written menu. Come early to explore the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the gorgeous 80-acre, four-season farm and educational center that houses the restaurant.
Wine program: The terroir-driven 1,800-label list is evolving, with new Sherry and apéritif offerings this year, along with more local wines. “We have added plenty of wines from this great state, and now feature over 50 New York selections,” says the wine director, Charles Puglia.
Favorite pairing: Milk ice cream with fresh and dried berries, with Macari’s 2010 Block E dessert wine from the North Fork of Long Island.
Fun facts: Each summer, the “Farm Camp” program brings more than 400 children to stay and help on the farm. More than 4,000 children have attended since 2004.
City: Pocantico Hills
About: A favorite hangout of Napa winemakers and wine lovers alike Michael Chiarello’s eatery serves creative Italian cuisine made with local ingredients like a Naples-inspired spaghetti with Dungeness crab, Meyer lemon and serrano chili.
Wine program: Reflecting the menu’s spirit, the 450-label wine list is split between Italian and locally produced wines, from small producers in less-known Italian wine regions to library vintages of iconic Napa cabs.
Favorite pairing: Smoked & braised short ribs with grilled Treviso smokey jus and polenta-speck polpette, with the Chiarello Family Vineyard 2012 Roux Petite Sirah from Napa Valley.
Fun facts: Chiarello’s wine label, Chiarello Family Vineyards, resulted from his discovery of neglected 120 year-old Petit Sirah and Zinfandel vines behind his house.
About: It’s a game-changing year for this icon of fine dining. Brady Williams, 28, took over as chef in April after a stint at Roberta’s in Brooklyn, New York. The restaurant launched its first-ever 10-course tasting menu that winks at classic Canlis dishes, and it now even churns its own butter.
Wine program: Decades of developing a program as exalted as its food has resulted in 18,000 bottles and 2,500 selections of uncommon vintage and producer depth. The focus is on classic growing regions around the world, particularly France, Italy and the Pacific Northwest.
Favorite pairing: Peter Canlis prawns with dry vermouth, garlic and lime, with the Two Vintners 2013 Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc from the Yakima Valley.
Fun facts: Any retired menu item from the restaurant’s 65-year history can be ordered with 48 hours notice.
Chada Thai & Wine
About: Chada is a destination for fans of affordable, lesser-known wines, masterfully paired with some of the most authentic Thai food this side of the Pacific. “We feel that fair pricing allows customers to venture out of their comfort zone to try new and exciting wine,” says Bank Atcharawan, the wine director and executive chef. “After all, wine is about discovery.”
Wine program: In contrast to the more safe and familiar wines offered on The Strip, Chada’s ever-changing list of about 200 selections spotlights “smaller producers, regions that aren’t mainstream and grapes that make tasty wine but aren’t well known yet,” says Atcharawan.
Favorite pairing: Yum Kai Nok Kata (Fried quail eggs, onions, cilantro, dehydrated shrimp, radish sprout, fish sauce/lime dressing, chili oil and Thai bird chili), with the Dönnhoff 2012 Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett from Germany.
Fun facts: Chada Street, a second restaurant by Atcharawan inspired by Thai street food and small bites, is due to open in Vegas this summer.
City: Las Vegas