Bar and restaurant guests expect more from by-the-glass wine lists these days. Some customers may seek to limit their portion or alcohol intake, or pair a different offering with each menu course, or they just might not be willing to commit to the same flavor throughout the entire evening.
That’s why many operators have stepped up their by-the-glass wine offerings. Innovative on-premise wine programs include both crowd-pleasing grapes as well as pleasant surprises in the form of expanded sections of interesting varietals from unchartered regions. Wine professionals around the country share some of their favorite selections when guests want “just a glass.”
ENO Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.
Number of wines by the glass: 40, including 8 on tap, priced $9 to $39
Wine list focus: Domestic and international wines, with emphasis on boutique wineries.
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “Orange wines, approachable wines that are rare and unique, and a delicate, fresh approach to popular varietals by crafting them with no influence of oak.”
Located in the tony Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C. is this 85-seat, three-floor wine bar, which offers wines by the glass or flight. Certified sommelier Roberto Picado is on hand to make recommendations such as the 2011 Milbrandt Vineyards pinot gris ($12 a glass) from Columbia Valley, WA. It’s aromatic on the nose, with bright citrus and tropical fruit, he says, followed by floral notes, great acidity and a hint of minerality on the palate—perfect with a roasted beet salad.
Picado also reaches for a sommelier’s darling varietal with the crisp, steely 2012 Zocker grüner veltliner ($11) from the Edna Valley on California’s Central Coast—an excellent accompaniment to salads. “It has an earthy characteristic, with white pepper, flavors of ripe melon and fruit cocktail.” And the 2008 Château de Lastours “Simone Descampes” ($10) from Corbières in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region is a full-bodied red blend of mostly carignan. “It’s a perfect combination of woody notes and Mediterranean fragrances—olive, dark berries and spices,” he says.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House,
Number of wines by the glass: 40, priced $12 to $40
Wine list focus: Balanced, with a focus on California wine.
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “Blends and textured whites are really exciting right now.”
Jessica Certo is the sommelier at the 450-seat New York location of the steakhouse chain, which operates 10 restaurants. To kick off the evening, she may suggest the Gruet Winery NV Brut from New Mexico (priced at $15 a glass), which is made in the traditional method. Certo loves the bubbly’s zesty lemon, green apple and brioche notes, and hints of hazelnuts; its lively effervescence cuts through fried dishes like the onion rings.
The 2012 Can Blau ($12 a glass) from Montsant, Spain, is a blend of mazuelo, garnacha and syrah that Certo describes as ripe and juicy, with hints of blueberry jam, raspberry fruit leather and black cherries, baking spices, tarragon and vanilla. While it can deftly stand up next to a steak, she also pairs it with sweet scallops wrapped in bacon over creamy cous cous. And the 2011 Robert Biale Vineyards “Royal Punishers” petite sirah ($19) from Napa Valley is a winning partner for lamb. “Dark brambly fruits, along with the savory spices in the wine, accentuate the gamey flavor in the meat,” Certo says.
Aureole at the Mandalay Bay Resort &
Casino, Las Vegas
Number of wines by the glass: 24, priced $12 to $32
Wine list focus: Embraces the world of wine, with particular depth in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Piedmont and Rioja.
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “More varietals and high-end, by-the-glass options give those who want to enjoy a different experience the option without buying an entire bottle.”
Harley Carbery heads up the wine program for 24 restaurants at the hotel and casino, including the 210-seat Aureole. He touts the stone fruit notes and bright finish of the 2010 Remix Wines “Iberian Remix” albariño ($15 a glass) from Edna Valley, CA, as a pairing for the hearts of romaine salad with Caesar dressing. “It’s a great match between the flavors of Spain—albariño and anchovies.”
The sangiovese-based 2010 San Giorgio “Ciampoleto” Rosso di Montalcino ($20) from Tuscany, Italy, has the grape’s signature cherry, violet and chocolate notes. Its combination of softness and structure makes it food-friendly with anything from pasta dishes to a blue cheese-crusted filet mignon.
And pinot noir fans will be drawn to the ripe, strawberry and slightly earthy quality of the 2010 Limestone pinot noir ($15) from California’s Russian River Valley, sipped with a rich Moulard duck breast.
Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore, MD
Number of wines by the glass: 25, priced $9.50 to $19
Wine list focus: Designed to reach a broad range of wine drinkers, with a large amount of organic, biodynamic and/or locally produced options.
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “The quality of our by-the-glass program has gone up, while the pricing has stayed the same or dropped.”
Jake Slater, the manager/wine buyer for the locally- and seasonally-focused, 198-seat restaurant in Baltimore’s Clipper Hill neighborhood offers up a bevy of interesting options by-the-glass. Best with the charcuterie-loaded Butcher’s Board is the 2011 Cleto Chiarli E Figli Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco ($11 a glass) from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, an aromatic dry red sparkler with juicy raspberries and notes of underripe melon. The certified organic and biodynamic 2012 Stock & Stein Riesling Trocken ($10.50) from Germany’s Rheingau region is dry, with attractive acidity and minerality, and works well with wood-roasted sausages.
The screw-capped, crowd-pleasing 2012 Thierry et Pascale Matrot Bourgogne chardonnay ($12.50) has a balanced palate of apple, honey and vanilla. “Aged in 15 to 20 percent oak, it is versatile and satisfies a wide range of chardonnay drinkers,” Slater says. And the certified organic 2007 Pavi Dolcetto ($11) from Napa Valley, brings the Italian varietal to California. “Tasting of tobacco, spice, dried leather and cherry, this juicy wine can be drunk all alone, or with any number of menu options.”
Camerata at Paulie’s, Houston, TX
Number of wines by the glass: About 25, priced $8 to $25
Wine list focus: Small-production, Old World wines from family-owned wineries.
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “More sommeliers are choosing adventurous by-the-glass programs; the lists that are the most exciting challenge their guests with fewer, more selective options.”
David Keck, the wine director/general manager for the 55-seat wine bar proclaims the 2010 Brokenwood Semillon from Australia’s Hunter Valley ($11) as an option that should be in every wine bar. “It is extremely light with very bright, beautiful acidity—lime zest and under-ripe peach mixed with just a hint of wet river rocks and dried spices.”
The 2010 Domaine Collet chablis ($16) from Burgundy, France, is also bright and mineral-driven, he says, with green fruit and a slight salinity. It’s perfect with the saltier options on the cheese and charcuterie menu. The made-for-salumi 2011 Stolpman Vineyard Estate syrah ($15) from California’s Santa Ynez Valley is a guest favorite, and has been on the menu since the wine bar launched, Kreck says. It shows the grape’s signature spicy and floral aromas, along with a touch of rich, full-bodied fruit.
And the 2012 Guimaro Tinto ($13) from Spain’s trendy Ribeira Sacra region, which is produced mainly with mencia, is one of Keck’s favorite by-the-glass pours. He deems its red, brambly fruit, moderate alcohol, bright acidity and borderline vegetal notes to be a suitable stand-in for pinot noir—and great with prosciutto.
Claude Café Downtown and
Claude Café Marina, San Francisco
Number of wines by the glass: 14 to 18, depending on location
Wine list focus: Mostly French-driven, with some California wines mixed in
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “[People] are going with more eclectic and unusual varietals, as well as more sherry and Eastern European varietals.”
Sarah Knoefler, the wine director of the 85-seat Claude Café Downtown and 55-seat Claude Café Marina notes that guests “are more willing to try anything, as long as it has the right fruit profile and goes with the food they are eating.” The NV Vincent Caille Domaine le Fay d’Homme Z Bulles ($11 a glass) from Muscadet in France’s Loire Valley is a melon de bourgogne-based bubbly with lime zest, chalk and a touch of honey. Knoefler says it’s a fitting match with crispy fried sardines.
Knoefler also touts the guava, candied grapefruit and minerality in the 2012 Domaine Etienne Daulny sancerre ($13) from the Loire Valley, paired with baked chèvre or escargot en croute. “It’s a classic example of French sauvignon blanc; it overdelivers on the richness and complexity of the grape,” she says.
And fans of Argentinean malbec can get a taste of what the grape can do in its native environment with the 2010 Château de Coustarelle malbec ($12) from Cahors in southwest France. It’s fruit-driven, with the enticing dried herbs and spice that’s indicative of the region, and works with cassoulet or steak tartar, Knoefler says.
Omni Ft. Worth Hotel, Ft. Worth, TX
Number of wines by the glass: 26 to 65, price range depends on restaurant within the hotel
Wine list focus: Depends on restaurant (five concepts in the hotel)
Sommelier-spotted wine trends: “I see people drinking more whites by the glass than reds. People are starting to stray away from chardonnay—even though it is still the number-one seller—and sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio and pinot gris sales are climbing.”
Thomas Turner heads up the wine programs for the five restaurants at the 614-room hotel. He’s apt to offer up eclectic options such as the heady 2012 K Vintners Viognier ($12 a glass) from Columbia Valley, WA, with fish tacos at the 110-seat Whiskey & Rye. “It has a seductive nose with Meyer lemon and sandalwood, giving way to a rich palate of confectionary fruit, dried orange rind, honeydew melon and beeswax,” he says.
Turner tried the 2010 Beringer “Knights Valley” cabernet sauvignon ($16) from Napa Valley next to a few other big-name, high-end California cabs: The Beringer outshone them all with its aromas of blueberries, dark plum, baking spices and hint of graphite, and its ripe flavors of boysenberry and blueberry and the soft and supple tannins. The wine works well with a bone-in Kansas City strip steak, he says.Finally, the 2012 Trivento “Amado Sur” ($11) from Mendoza, Argentina, shows what great things happen when the country’s signature malbec is blended with other red grapes—in this case, bonarda and syrah. It shows lush red fruit, velvety tannins and a persistent finish. This particular wine is a good partner to a brisket dip sandwich, Turner notes.