Sommeliers Pick Best Values on Top 100 Wine Lists

botti di vinoThere are many metrics that go into creating a standout wine list, and one is, absolutely, value. We asked sommeliers at several of the 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winners for Top 100 Wine Lists restaurants to reveal the best values on their wine lists. 

* Alexandria Cubbage, Head Sommelier, Veritas, New York, New York: “One of the best values on the Veritas wine list is the 1995 magnum of Stony Hill Chardonnay for $275.  It represents a great value because this wine delivers the complexities and layered subtleties of fine Burgundy with the fruit character of Napa Valley at a fraction of the cost of fine Burgundy. Stony Hill made its first vintage of Chardonnay in 1952, and continues to showcase the longevity with which well-made wines from Napa Valley can attain.  This bottle is also special because it is in magnum form and is available on the Veritas wine list from Park B. Smith’s personal wine collection.  It is a rare treat to have this wine on our list.”

* Harley Carbery, Director of Wine, Aureole, Las Vegas, Nevada: “Hirsch, Bohan Dillon, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2011 for $85 a bottle. The wine is a wonderful, true expression of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, it shows as well as many wines twice as expensive, and is always a crowd pleaser.”

* Katelyn Peil, Wine Director, Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Woodinville, Washington: “Although there are a lot of great values to be found on my list, for me, an especially great value is found in the Catena Malbec from Vista Flores, Argentina. This wine is 100% Malbec from vineyard sites that are found at over 3,000 feet elevation. It is structured and complex, and really over delivers for a price point of $42 on our list. It is my goal to build a value-centric list while representing the many wine regions of the World in addition to being paired with the wide variety of foods offered at Purple Café and Wine Bar.”

* Branden Bidwell, Wine Director, Wine Cask, Santa Barbara, California:  “The ‘best value’ on our list is a tough question. We focus mainly on local, Santa Barbara County wines and because of our good relationships with most of the local producers on our list, we like to think that all of our Santa Barbara County selections are a great value. If I have to pick one, however, it would be the Margerum ‘M5’ Rhone varietal blend. Doug Margerum is a fantastic winemaker, and this is a terrific value. We offer the wine by the glass, and our guests love it and often buy bottles to take with them.”

* Edgar Poureshagh, Certified Sommelier/General Manager, 3Twenty Wine Lounge, Los Angeles, California: “The best value on the list is our collection of wines with significant age that are still reasonably priced. I love serving wines that are ready to drink, and when I can find wines (like aged German Rieslings and Spanish Rioja of superlative quality) that I can serve at a reasonable price, it lets me offer our guests a great wine experience, without the exorbitantly high cost often associated with fine wines.”

* Kristin Jonna, Owner/Certified Sommelier, Vinology, Ann Arbor, Michigan: “I think one of our best values currently would be the Protos Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero!  Delicious, depth of character for only $36 a bottle.”

* Tiffany Cox, Certified Sommelier, The Hobbit, Orange, California: “The best value to be found in the cellar at The Hobbit is definitely in large format.  Any time you can present a large format bottle for your party, you are going to get a fantastic presentation and an experience your guests will remember. In our selection of large format bottles, you will also find wines with some cellar time on them.  They have been carefully aged at optimum conditions, so we have done all the work for you. Open, sip, and enjoy. Two I would highly recommend are 1999 Delas Hermitage ‘Les Bessards’ 1.5L  for $525 and 2001 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L  for $425.”

* Kenneth Norcutt, Chef-Proprietor/Wine Director, SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar, North Myrtle Beach, California: “Perrin & Fils, Gigondas, La Gille, S. Rhone, France, 2006 $80. Alluring aromas of warm ganache and sandalwood mingle, before giving way to a supple beam of red cherry, plum, and currant fruit. Round, juicy finish. I believe properly aged wines are always a value. This wine has been aged in our cellar for five years and is at its optimal drinking peak. For $80 on our list, this wine definitely has some bang for the buck.”

* William Lewis, Sommlier, The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, Tustin, California: “The Angeline Pinot Noir because of Pinot Noir’s popularity — and the fact that everyone that tastes it likes it and loves the price point. They also seem to have a second glass of this. The flavors are bright fruit, strawberries, raspberries and spicy notes, like tea leaf, with vanilla undertones. Good for tboth he beginner and the sophisticated palate.”

* Jon Doholis, Beverage Manager, Cork, Chandler, Arizona: “The best value wines on our list are actually the higher-end selections, as the markup on those particular bottles is more modest than most other restaurants. Other places, steakhouses in particular, tend to apply a markup on bottles up to four times, and we don’t do that at Cork. Also, on Tuesday nights, we offer half-off bottles under $120, which makes for a wonderful opportunity for diners to try all ranges of wines at a very approachable price point.”

* Justin Moore, 360 Bistro, Nashville, Tennessee: “One of the best values on our list is a 1982 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste in magnum that we are pouring tableside using our Coravin for $60 a glass. It is great to be able to offer a fifth growth of this quality from a legendary vintage to so many guests that might never have had a mature Bordeaux. Serving every glass at the table from magnum provides a great guest experience for the money. With a list as large as ours, there are many hidden gems, and one of my favorites is the 2007 Bonnefond ‘Cote Rozier’ Cote-Rotie for $140. It is a reasonably priced introduction to a region not many people know about or have access to. The nose alone on this wine has won over many a Chateauneuf devotee. When a lot of people think of value on a wine list they think of affordable wines. Its great to go out and not have to spend too much, but value to me also represents a good deal. We use a sliding scale on our wines, so the higher the price of the wine, the less we mark it up. We are a restaurant, not a museum, and we want to sell wines — not see them live on the shelf out of reach. At $800, the 2009 Le Montrachet by Vincent Girardin is priced to sell and marked up far less then many restaurants would even consider.”

* Christopher Czarnecki, Chef/Owner, The Joel Palmer House, Dayton, Oregon: “My pick would be the Seufert – Vine Idyl Vineyard 2009 for $40 a bottle. One of the advantages to having a restaurant in the heart of wine country is having access to wines that you can’t just find anywhere. Seufert is right down the street from us and has been producing fantastic Pinot Noirs for several years now.”

* Riccardo Bonino, Owner-Sommelier, Griffin Market, Beaufort, South Carolina: “To me, the best value I can offer my customers is represented by the hundreds of wines coming from small producers, some making less than a 1,000 cases total production (not just a wine — their whole production) that otherwise would not be available on the U.S. market, let alone the South Carolina market. Obscure appellations (Pelaverga, Faro, Taurasi, Sforzato) or tiny producers, such as Le Strette from Novello (Barolo) are difficult to find if you have’t experienced these wines before or if you don’t personally know the producers. This is my best value on the list: delicious wines made with passion from small producers. And, yes, the prices are absolutely affordable.”

* Whitney Vinzant, Owner, Louie’s Wine Dive, Kansas City, Missouri: “Louie’s Wine Dive will open any bottle if you purchase two glasses. We seek to change a common misconception of wine from pretentious and high brow to an accessible and wonderfully enhancing culinary experience that all should be welcome to enjoy. The pricing model is simple Louie’s Wine Dive takes the listed bottle price and divides by four, which is the number of glasses they pour from a bottle. Guests pay according to the number of glasses they order.  This is a great deal, yet this is just where the fun begins at Louie’s Wine Dive. The leftover bottles are immediately listed and sold off the Louie’s Wine Dive Wine Board, which is a ten-foot long chalkboard, which generally features 10 to 25 bottles ranging from Champagne to brandy. The deals can be truly extraordinary and provides guests the opportunity to try wines they otherwise would not.”

* Jeff Wyatt, Proprietor, Marche Bacchus, Las Vegas, Nevada: “Everything in our restaurant is a value, as it is based on retail pricing from our adjoining wine shop. But our ‘biggest bang for the buck’ is Gemstone Proprietary Red 2010 from Napa Valley. It is deep and rich and everything you would want in a Cabernet Blend. At  $69.99, it is a true value!”

* Maximilian Kast, Wine Director, Fearrington House, Pittsboro, North Carolina: “I would say that the best value on our wine list is the 2000 Finca Villacreses from Ribera del Duero Reserva for $75. It is a property that sits next to Vega Sicilia, one of the most famous estates in Spain, and offers immense depth, complexity and pleasure for the price. The wine is 75% Tempranillo, with the rest being made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was aged in new and one-year-old French Oak barrels  for 14 months.  Only 2,000 cases were made of this wine. It is rare to see a wine with this much pedigree and with this much age at this price point. This is just one of the many great values on our list of 1,200 selections.”

* Phil Park, Opening Sommelier, Restaurant Guy Savoy, Las Vegas, Nevada: “We have many values on the list. Restaurant Guy Savoy’s wine list is almost eight years old, and there are many wines we purchased when the restaurant opened — and prices have stayed the same. When you compare those prices to today’s prices, there are big savings to our guests. As an example Les Pézerolles, Domaine de Montille, 2000 is listed for $160. At current prices, if you could find it, it should be around $300. There are many wines like this, but you need to look for them; or, talk to me, and I’d be happy to be your tour guide through the wine list.”


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