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Wine Stars in Texas (Wine Spectator)

February 28, 2019 - 8:30am

Updated: Feb. 28, 2019

Texas offers a bounty of excellent dining options, from a well-known steak house in a recently opened Houston hotel to a self-serve wine spot in Lubbock to a cozy Italian gem in Austin. These 11 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners from around the state go well beyond the grill and griddle—though there's plenty here for steak lovers, too—with worldly wine lists to satisfy a full slate of tastes.

For more options to please your palate around the world, see our more than 3,500 Restaurant Award–winning restaurants, including our 91 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to We want to hear from you!

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Three locations in Dallas, Texas, and Houston, Texas
Telephone Dallas: (214) 366-2000; Houston: (713) 780-7352; Downtown Houston: (713) 658-1995
Open Dinner, Monday to Saturday
Grand Award (Houston and Dallas), Best of Award of Excellence (Downtown Houston)

Jack Thompson The dining room at Pappas Bros. offers Texas-style elegance.

With two Grand Award–winning wine lists clocking in at more than 4,100 selections, Texas chain Pappas Bros. Steakhouse proves that everything is indeed bigger in Texas. The Houston location’s list, managed by wine director Steven McDonald, earned its first Grand Award in 2010, while the Dallas outpost’s list, run by wine director Barbara Werley, earned the accolade the following year. Both programs offer heavy hitters from California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône, Piedmont, Australia, Spain, Tuscany, Germany and Austria to pair with the chain’s signature steaks, which are dry-aged in-house for at least 28 days to develop a slightly nutty flavor while remaining juicy and tender. The newest addition to the family, the downtown Houston location earned its first Best of Award of Excellence in 2016. Each Pappas Bros. location hosts more than a dozen wine tastings and wine dinners a year, each focused on a particular wine style, wine region or winery.

Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood

219 E. Houston St., San Antonio, Texas
Telephone (210) 472-2600
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Jason Risner Bohanan’s Prime Steaks & Seafood pairs a classic wine list with a variety of grilled meats.

In downtown San Antonio, Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood sits just a block from the River Walk. Located in a historic storefront dating back to the 1800s, the restaurant adds to its Old World charm with preserved pinewood floors, antique lighting and a selection of cigars. Chef and owner Mark Bohanan’s menu features classic steak-house fare, while the wine list, curated by wine director Jenny Rabb, highlights wines from California, France and Italy. With 630 labels, the program has earned a Best of Award of Excellence every year since 2006.


2200 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 622-9996
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Shannon O'Hara The menu at Caracol includes wood-roasted Gulf oysters with chipotle butter.

In uptown Houston, just a short drive from NRG Stadium, you’ll find Best of Award of Excellence winner Caracol. There, restaurateur Tracy Vaught and chef Hugo Ortega provide a culinary tour of coastal Mexico, showcasing seafood from the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico alongside chicken chile relleno, wood-roasted ribs and a cheeseburger with chorizo, avocado and black beans. Wine director Sean Beck’s 390-selection list provides plenty in the way of fish-friendly crisp whites and light-bodied reds, with strengths in California, France, Italy and Germany. Those who prefer spirits can choose from a large selection of tequilas and mezcals. Vaught and Oretga are also the team behind Best of Award of Excellence winner Backstreet Cafe and Award of Excellence winners Hugo's and Xochi, all located in Houston.

The Funky Door Bistro & Wine Room

6801 Milwaukee Ave., Lubbock, Texas
Telephone (806) 687-0505
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

The Funky Door Bistro & Wine Room Enjoy extensive by-the-glass options at the Funky Door Bistro & Wine Room.

Combining an eclectic menu with a Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, the Funky Door Bistro & Wine Room is a culinary go-to spot with a twist: 1,295 wine selections, 40 of which are available to guests for self-serve pours out of Enomatic wine dispensers in 1.5-, 3- and 6-ounce servings. Lovers of Californian, French and Italian styles will particularly appreciate wine director Carrie Britton’s list, while the menu from chefs Wade Price and Betsy Wilson offers something for everyone, from fondue to flatbreads to steaks.


777 Main St., Fort Worth, Texas
Telephone (817) 877-3388
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

After having your fill of the shops, galleries, gardens and entertainment options in downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square district, treat yourself to an evening at Grace. This elegant dinner destination offers a 900-selection, Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list particularly strong in choices from California, France and Italy. When it comes to cuisine, choose between chef Blaine Staniford’s seven-course tasting menu, with optional wine pairings, and à la carte dishes like crispy fried oysters, lamb belly dumplings and bacon-wrapped filet of beef stuffed with cheddar and mushrooms.


1204 W. Lynn St., Austin, Texas
Telephone (512) 477-5584
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Matt Harrington Jeffrey’s blends the best of a steak house and a neighborhood French bistro.

Jeffrey’s has been a staple of Austin’s historic Clarksville neighborhood for decades. V.P. of operations June Rodil and assistant wine director Patrick Olds work together to manage the Best of Award of Excellence–winning list, which is strongest in California, France (especially Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne), and Italy, with more than two dozen large-format bottles. The 650 selections complement chef Mark McCain’s French-American cuisine. McCain’s lively menu includes dishes such as hamachi carpaccio, shellfish risotto and duck breast au poivre, along with a section devoted to aged beef cuts. Along with Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman, Rodil also owns Award of Excellence winner June's All Day in Austin.

The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

2406 N. Main St., Fort Worth, Texas
Telephone (817) 740-8810
Open Lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday
Best of Award of Excellence

The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro’s Fort Worth location offers a peek at the 2,000-bottle inventory.

Fort Worth’s historic Stockyards District is home to the Best of Award of Excellence–winning flagship location of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, which has two other Restaurant Award winners in Austin and Knoxville, Tenn. At its original outpost, the concept from chef Tim Love focuses on innovative American steak-house cuisine and New World wines. Wine director David Boltz’s list offers an impressive array of California labels, with benchmark producers like Caymus and Far Niente. Pair your selection with distinct specialties like rabbit-rattlesnake sausage and antelope tacos.

Mastro’s Steakhouse at the Post Oak Hotel

1650 West Loop S., Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 993-2500
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Mastro’s Steakhouse at the Post Oak Hotel The largest wine list of all Mastro’s Steakhouse locations is inside the recently opened Post Oak Hotel.

Mastro's Steakhouse has 10 Restaurant Award–winning locations across the country. The chain is also part of Tilman Fertitta's Landry’s restaurant group, which includes more than 200 Restaurant Award winners between concepts such as the Oceanaire Seafood Room, Morton's, The Steakhouse and Strip House. So it’s no surprise that Mastro’s delivers serious wine programs, especially at the Post Oak Hotel (also owned by Fertitta). The Best of Award of Excellence winner burst onto the Houston market in March 2018 with an ambitious wine list of 3,100 labels managed by wine director Shaun Prevatt. France is the list’s biggest strength, with standouts in Burgundy and Bordeaux, but the selections also shine in California and Italy (particularly Piedmont and Tuscany). Chef Michael Colbert complements the classically focused wine collection with the brand’s signature steak-house menu.

Café Central

109 N. Oregon St., El Paso, Texas
Telephone (915) 545-2233
Open Lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday
Award of Excellence

Café Central At Café Central, you'll find American fare and the largest Restaurant Award–winning wine list in El Paso.

Café Central opened in 1918 in Juarez, Mexico, moved closer to the border following Prohibition, and eventually settled in downtown El Paso. Today, the Award of Excellence winner, with its 1,210-selection wine list and extensive art collection, makes for a stylish dining spot for enophiles. Overseen by sommelier Phillip Bocutto, the moderately priced list focuses on California and France. In the kitchen, chef Aldo Mora designs dishes such as octopus carpaccio, maple-leaf duck breast and tomahawk pork chop with pineapple mole.

Olive & June

3411 Glenview Ave., Austin, Texas
Telephone (512) 467-9898
Open Dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

You'll find an Award of Excellence–winning wine list and comforting Italian cuisine at Olive & June.

For Italian wine and dining in Old West Austin, head to Olive & June. Shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree, the three-level restaurant provides both indoor and outdoor dining spaces, making for a magical dinner setting. On chef Brian Moses' menu, choose from a variety of handmade pastas, sharable plates like arancini and pork meatballs, and hearty meat dishes such as lamb confit and New York strip. When it comes to the beverage menu, wine director Joseph Rendon’s 100-selection, moderately priced list shows strength in Italian bottles. A variety of amari and grappa is also available.

Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille

700 Baybrook Mall Drive, Friendswood, Texas
Telephone (281) 286-8800
Open Lunch, Friday; dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille serves an elegant take on chateaubriand with three sauces.

With 14 Award of Excellence–winning locations in Alabama, Colorado, Illinois and Texas, Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille means business when it comes to pairing steak with wine. Prime beef offerings are a fixture of the menu, as are classics such as bacon-wrapped scallops, seared snapper and steamed lobster tail. The flagship location moved from Clear Lake to Friendswood, which lies between Houston and Galveston, in 2016, and has earned an Award of Excellence each year since 2008. All 14 locations’ lists are managed by wine director Susi Zivanovic and offer 215 selections, with picks from California and around the world.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

Restaurant Spotlight: Soby’s (Wine Spectator)

February 28, 2019 - 8:00am

Soby's opened in Greenville, S.C., in 1997, ahead of the development of the city's hip dining scene. While the restaurant has held a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award since 1998, this local gem is far from dated. Recent renovations improved cellar storage and upgraded the dining room’s rustic charm. In the kitchen, chef Shaun Garcia takes a modern, globally influenced approach to Southern cuisine, serving roasted bone marrow with shiitake mushrooms and chimichurri, and spiking mashed potatoes with horseradish for the braised beef short rib. The wine program, managed by wine director Joe Crossan, has kept up with the times as well. The Best of Award of Excellence–winning 800 selections cover regions around the world, with an emphasis on California but also excelling in France, Italy and Oregon. The list has something for all palates and budgets, with options ranging from bottles under $100 in nearly every region to splurge-worthy verticals from producers such as Screaming Eagle and Château Mouton-Rothschild. For another great dining destination in Greenville, check out Soby's owner Carl Sobocinski’s other local Restaurant Award winner, the Lazy Goat.

Turning Tables: Inside Blackberry Farm's New Mountain Hotel and Restaurants (Wine Spectator)

February 28, 2019 - 5:30am
Grand Award Winner Blackberry Farm Opens New Property in Smoky Mountains

The team behind Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., has opened a new hotel that focuses on nature and wellness. Blackberry Mountain, located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, about 20 minutes away from Blackberry Farm, is a 5,200-acre property where guests can mountain bike, rock climb and camp.

"There is so much to explore and so many things to see, from waterfalls and overlooks to rolling pastures and spanning vistas," said owner Mary Celeste Beall. "We want our guests to take time to discover something new about this place and themselves along the way."

Photos by Bonjwing Lee

The wellness theme carries over to the hotel's two restaurants, which are run by the same team as Blackberry Farm. "We started by creating the idea that the list at Blackberry Mountain would showcase wineries and vignerons that had a naturally sustainable and generational approach to making wine," said director of food and beverage Andy Chabot.

Firetower, the more casual concept, is open for breakfast and lunch, with a snack and drink menu in the evening, including nearly 30 wine selections with a dozen available by the glass. The Whippoorwill Lounge serves light bites and drinks throughout the day.

The fine-dining concept, Three Sisters, opened with a 115-selection wine list offering global picks from California, Italy, France, Spain and beyond, with benchmark producers and several older vintages. It's a condensed version of Blackberry Farm's list, which will grow once the hotel's wine cellar is completed in the spring. "We wrote an appendix to our list that tells a story about each producer showcased," said Chabot. "I think the list is exciting, fun and offers great selections for all levels of wine drinkers."

The food is locally sourced with a focus on healthy fare and vegetables, like a black-eyed pea hummus with crudités, as well as meat and seafood options, such as a wood-grilled beef rib eye with celery root puree.—B.G.

D.C. Area's Voltaggio Brothers Open Close-to-Home Concept Courtesy of Conrad Washington D.C. Estuary is located on the third floor of the Conrad Hotel.

Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, the chef brothers behind Best of Award of Excellence winner Voltaggio Brothers Steak House in National Harbor, Md., will open Estuary March 6 in the Conrad Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Voltaggios grew up in Frederick, Md., and drew inspiration from their upbringing in Maryland to craft a seafood-focused menu at Estuary, with locally sourced ingredients and some whimsical twists. They were also influenced by their joint travels around the world and other cities they've called home, including Los Angeles.

"We're having fun with it," Michael said. "We want to figure out ways to repackage, re-present, repurpose ideas that have been around for a long time." Creative takes on familiar dishes include crab rangoons in the shape of whole crabs served with Old Bay cream cheese, as well as "pan con tunate," a play on pan con tomate made with concentrated tomato and raw tuna.

Beverage director Nick Hellberg highlights international selections that show a distinct sense of place. There are more than 400 wines on the opening by-the-bottle list, with 28 available by the glass, representing a wide range of styles and wine-producing regions, including producers from nearby Virginia like Veritas and Barboursville. The program balances familiar names with more esoteric options to complement the diverse food menu. "We want to be able to be playful," said Hellberg, who also wants to emphasize good value on the list.—J.H.

Gabriel Kreuther Is Named Culinary Director of New York's Baccarat Hotel Courtesy of Baccarat Hotel New York Spaetzle, now on the menu at Baccarat, is a dish from chef Kreuther's native Alsace.

Chef Gabriel Kreuther now oversees all culinary programs for New York City's Baccarat Hotel, including the on-site restaurant, the Grand Salon. Kreuther created exclusive dishes for the venue, like crispy shrimp lollipops, and saffron spaetzle with cider-braised rabbit. The new menu also features some signature items from his namesake Best of Award of Excellence winner, such as tarte flambée, house-made country sausage and kugelhopf, a Bundt-like cake. While the wine program, overseen by wine director Matthieu Yamoum, is always evolving, there is no immediate plan to make changes. He will continue operating his Gabriel Kreuther restaurant at Bryant Park.—J.H.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at wsrestaurantawards.

Emmanuel Macron Finds Unicorn Wine, Blasts Weedkiller; Wet Bandits Steal 8,000-Gallon Vodka Iceberg 'Harvest' (Wine Spectator)

February 28, 2019 - 5:10am

They were simpler times, when then-candidate for the French presidency Emmanuel Macron won over his countrymen by promising to bring to the office a combo of fresh-faced idealism and an experienced palate that could identify Bordeaux and Provence in a blind wine tasting.

Now, fighting literal fires as the Yellow Vest protests continue to rock Paris, Macron almost missed his much-beloved drop-in at the wine pavilion of the annual Paris International Agricultural Show. But the president made an appearance at 9 p.m. Saturday for a nightcap of Burgundy, Rhône and wine-policy talk. Macron, a known connoisseur of boutique growers and unicorn #sommlife selects, sipped on a rare Vacqueyras blanc from the Southern Rhône's Domaine la Fourmone and a Domaine Maillard Corton-Renardes grand cru 2011 red Burgundy.

Pascal Maillard and Ombeline Catteau of Domaine Maillard liked the pairing. "Corton-Renardes is a wine of strong character and density. Wild and smoky, it is the most racy of the Corton hill, with a lifetime potential out of the ordinary," they told Unfiltered via email. "It is surely all these subtleties that pushed [sommelier] Etienne Laporte to choose it as a wine being the image of Monsieur Macron!"

"We are very pleased to have one of our wines tasted by the president," said Marion Missolin of La Fourmone. "As Vacqueyras is mostly known for its red wines, it is interesting to introduce the audience to another aspect of our production and show the quality of this diversity." Macron himself was intrigued, "Quel cépage?" (Roussanne.)

In his chat with directors of wine-industry organizations, Macron listened to concerns about taxes on French wine exports and governmental aid for winegrowers before revisiting one of his buzziest wine policies, the push to drastically reduce the use of synthetic herbicides that can be environmentally damaging. In a speech earlier in the day, he had declared, "I think we can have the first vineyards in the world without glyphosate."

On that issue, Macron has La Fourmone and Maillard on board—both have already eliminated glyphosate in their own vineyards. "It will mean a lot to us if winegrowers of France were to become an example for the rest of the world," said Missolin.

Chilling Act of Icecrime as Wet Bandits Steal Vodka Distillery's Pristine Iceberg Water

The mysterious disappearance of some 8,000 gallons of Stone Age water, "harvested" from an iceberg for the production of vodka, continues to baffle the Royal Canadian Mounties of Newfoundland. It was enough water to make 65,000 bottles of Iceberg Vodka. Without breaking any locks, the thieves infiltrated the water warehouse, backed up a tanker truck and hooked a hose to the tank where the iceberg water was stored.

“We can only guess that they thought it was actually vodka,” Iceberg Vodka CEO and co-owner David Meyers told Unfiltered. “They’re going to have pretty big surprise.”

Courtesy of Iceberg Vodka Cash floe

If you were already pretty-big-surprised at "iceberg harvest," it goes like this: Thousands of icebergs break away from the ice shelf in the arctic every year and float down "Iceberg Alley" along the coast of Newfoundland. “It’s the purest source of water on the planet,” said Meyers. “It exposes the oldest core of the ice; they have been frozen since last ice age.” But timing is everything. “It’s like grapes for the wine industry, it’s one time a year.”

The harvest crew uses articulated claws and a backhoe to pluck off chunks of about a metric ton of ice, which are then ground up and put into a hold. There, the iceberg is turned into water, by a process known as melting.

“If we don’t harvest it, it just melts and disappears. There’s no environmental footprint,” said Meyers. "Not only is it pristine and clear, it’s a fairly high pH, so it’s a soft water." No treatment or purification is needed before the company blends it with grain alcohol to make the final product. Luckily, Meyers says the distillery has sufficient stock to see them through this year’s harvest. Meanwhile, with no fingerprints and no leads, detectives may be forced to declare this—donning sunglasses—a cold case.

Which Royal Family Member Smuggled Krug into the Hospital?

As recent history will tell you, the British royal family loves their wine—almost as much as we plebeians love to gossip about how much the British royal family loves their wine. And in the absence of a royal wedding to speculate on, we've got some new-old news about one of the 20th century's favorite monarchs: Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, otherwise known as the Queen Mother, or simply "Mum" to the reigning Queen Elizabeth II.

According to Britain's Channel 5 documentary Secrets of the Royal…, the Queen Mother, who died in 2002 at age 101, had a particular fondness for Krug Champagne, and she liked it so much that she'd often keep a stash of it with her wherever she went—including, apparently, when she went to the hospital for surgery.

"At the age of 97, she was in hospital having an operation on her hip," sommelier Pippa Penny claims in a video clip of the documentary. "And she smuggled 12 bottles of Krug Champagne into the hospital to make her stay a little more comfortable and enjoyable."

We're not sure what's more impressive: A near-centenarian prioritizing Champagne during a likely physically trying time, or the ability of the Queen Mother's team to hide thousands of dollars' worth of Krug in her royal hospital suite!

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8 & $20: Streamlined Cassoulet (Wine Spectator)

February 26, 2019 - 8:00am

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

I don’t think there’s a dish out there that’s more fortifying against a cold winter night than a good cassoulet. However, this classic French casserole can famously take days to make. That takes it out of the running not only for weeknights, but even a lot of weekends. I really wanted a recipe that could make cassoulet into a viable everyday dish … or at least for a less hectic night.

Like so many others, I’ve recently become an Instant Pot convert and cassoulet seemed like a dish just waiting to be adapted to this useful kitchen contraption. That alone took hours off of the cooking time. To tailor this dish to the average evening, though, I took a few more liberties and stripped it down to its bare essentials. The result was incredibly flavorful.

I limited the number of meats to the two most widely used in this casserole: duck and pork sausage. If you have other stew-worthy meats on hand to cook, or leftovers from other dinners, it would be completely in keeping with the spirit of the dish’s peasant roots to add them to the pot.

Cassoulet typically uses duck confit; however, this can be expensive to buy and time-consuming if you’re making it yourself. I just seared regular duck legs in the pot first before cooking them with the rest of the casserole, and they turned out tender and delicious. If you’d like to keep costs down further, try swapping in chicken thighs for the duck.

I took advantage of conveniently pre-chopped mirepoix, now available at many grocery stores, to reduce prep time to nearly nothing. If your grocery store doesn’t carry this, you can chop the onions, carrots and celery yourself; it’ll just add a few minutes of prep time (and take the ingredient count up by two).

One impressive aspect of a multicooker is its ability to cook dry beans without a lengthy soaking period. Many people still advocate soaking the beans anyway to increase their digestibility and for aesthetic reasons, as it may help keep them from bursting or cracking; however, if you didn’t have the time or forethought to presoak, you can take those beans from dry to fully cooked in about an hour.

Though I strictly limited my ingredient list in keeping with this column, you can certainly take your cassoulet to the next level by embellishing it with items you have on hand: Tomato paste, bay leaves and additional herbs and vegetables are all often included in this dish.

There was one extra I couldn’t quite do without: Traditional cassoulets are often topped with a layer of breadcrumbs that get baked into a delicious crust. As much I love this crust, I compromised to keep things simple. I flavored bread crumbs with thyme, salt and pepper and baked them separately, then sprinkled them on the individual serving portions. If you want the bread crumbs to be fully baked, transfer the otherwise-finished cassoulet to an oven-safe casserole dish, sprinkle on the topping and stick the whole thing under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Alternatively, try using croutons or crispy bacon bits as toppings.

Cassoulet originates in France’s Languedoc, and I’d hoped to pair it with a wine from the region. Though these are often widely available, I couldn’t find one at the store on this particular occasion. I opted instead for red from the nearby Côtes du Rhône appellation, as Rhône grape varieties such as Grenache and Syrah are commonly planted in the Languedoc. In addition, I opted to try a California expression of Mourvèdre, another Rhône grape.

My husband and I were torn as to our favorite match, as both wines spoke to different aspects of the cassoulet. He slightly preferred the California Mourvèdre, which had a smoky, meaty quality that integrated perfectly with the cassoulet, while the wine’s ripe black cherry and mixed berry fruit created a nice counterpoint. I slightly favored the Côtes du Rhône, which emphasized the earthier aspects of the dish. Showing tart cherries and plums, as well as notes of stone, white pepper and herbs, the wine brought out similar notes in the food. The Mourvèdre was the richer pairing, whereas the Côtes du Rhône was the fresher match. You can’t really go wrong with either, so suit your taste and mood.

Streamlined Cassoulet

Pair with a Rhône-variety red such as Cline Mourvèdre Contra Costa County Ancient Vines 2016 (87 points, $15) or M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche 2016 (88 points, $17).

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 90 minutes (or more if you allow the multicooker’s pressure to release on its own)
Total time: 95 minutes
Approximate food costs: $39

  • 4 duck legs
  • 12 ounces smoked pork sausage (about 4 sausages), sliced into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or other liquid for deglazing
  • 16 ounces pre-cut mirepoix (or 1 onion, 1 to 2 carrots and 1 to 2 ribs of celery, all diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 16 ounces dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, rinsed
  • 6 to 8 sprigs of thyme, divided
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

1. Pat the duck legs dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Set your Instant Pot or other multicooker to the sauté function and add a small amount of olive oil to the pot. Once it’s hot, add the duck legs skin-side down and allow them to brown and begin to render the fat, about 5 minutes. Flip and lightly brown on the second side for another 5 minutes. Transfer the duck legs to a clean plate.

3. Add the sausage to the pot and lightly brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a little red wine vinegar (or red wine or stock), scraping up any browned bits. Add the mirepoix and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add the duck legs back in, then add the diced tomatoes, white beans, 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme and quart of chicken stock to the pot. Stir to make sure the beans are submerged in the liquid. Season with about a teaspoon of salt and a generous pinch of pepper.

4. Put the lid on your multicooker and lock into place. Program it to cook under high pressure for 60 minutes.

5. About 10 to 15 minutes before the stew is done cooking, spread the bread crumbs out on a small baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Pick thyme leaves off the remaining sprigs, then mix them into the bread crumbs along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bake in an oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through, or until the bread crumbs have begun to turn golden-brown. Set aside.

6. Once the cassoulet has finished cooking, let the pressure drop naturally if you have time, or carefully release the pressure manually. Remove the lid and taste, adjusting seasoning if needed. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer the duck legs to a cutting board. The meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender. Use a fork to gently separate the meat from the bone and divide into chunks. Add the duck meat back into the cassoulet. Place in bowls and top with the bread crumbs. Serves 8.

Feeling up to a challenge? Try a more traditional and complex version of cassoulet from French chef Philippe Bertineau.

Merry Edwards' Next Chapter: A Pioneer for Women in Winemaking Looks Back, and Moves Ahead (Wine Spectator)

February 25, 2019 - 1:45pm

Merry Edwards admits she’s never been good at sitting still. "I’m always doing research," she says. She's currently conducting experiments on how lower alcohol levels in wines impact aroma and mouthfeel; she's also partnering with the University of California at Davis and an Israeli company to record vine stress via Wi-Fi–enabled moisture readers implanted in vines. "These things are what keep you interested and moving forward."

Edwards' energy and curiosity have left an indelible imprint on the wine industry. Over her 45-year career, her experimentation has led not just to higher quality wines, but safer wines. Even as she steps away from her namesake winery, Edwards hopes to remain engaged in new things.

Last week, Edwards sold the winery and vineyards that she and her husband, Ken Coopersmith, built from the ground up to France's Louis Roederer Champagne house. "It’s so unpredictable; I never thought I’d find a buyer I’d like," Edwards jests. She adds that her philosophy has always been to do something because she felt like she should. "I didn’t have a long-term goal in mind when I started."

Discovering Wine

"I didn’t come from a family with money; I grew up in a middle-class family in Pasadena," says Edwards. "I had to create my own future, and my goals unfolded along the way."

Edwards originally planned to study nursing in college, and graduated in 1970 from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in physiology. It was at Berkeley that she became enamored with wine, leading her to shift the focus of her graduate studies to enology at U.C. Davis.

Over the course of developing her master’s thesis, Edwards discovered that lead-based bottle capsules were leeching lead into wine. She conducted a comprehensive survey supported by a grant, testing hundreds of bottles. The study's backers weren’t happy with her findings. "They suppressed my work for an entire year because they feared it would change capsules for the entire world," says Edwards. Of course, she was right. Once her thesis was published, the production and use of lead capsules ceased.

Edwards earned her master’s degree in food science, with an emphasis in enology, in 1973. But she was confronted with more opposition, this time in the form of gender discrimination. At the time, women enologists were not being hired as winemakers, but Edwards, unwilling to accept a position in the lab, persisted. She found her first winemaking job a year later, at Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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While there, Edwards sent Mount Eden Pinot Noir cuttings to Davis. A previously unidentified clone, the selection would be officially named UCD-37—what many know today as "Mount Eden," or as the "Merry Edwards Clone." Cuttings from those vines would later propagate her estate plantings.

Edwards spent three years at Mount Eden before moving north to Sonoma County, becoming the founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek Winery. While there, she continued her investigation into clones, studying Pinot Noir at the University of Dijon in Burgundy.

She was amazed by the diversity among the hundreds of clones she examined. "I tried to talk to people about it, but they thought I was crazy," laughs Edwards, noting that there wasn't much clonal diversity in California in the 1970s, and few understood how the clones performed. "Viticulture is a whole different field now, and I could talk about it for hours."

Forging a New Path

In 1984, Edwards left Matanzas Creek to pursue consulting and start her own wine label, Merry Vintners. The label eventually failed, but in 1996 she purchased 24 acres that would become the site for her Meredith Estate Vineyard. The following year she met her future husband, Ken Coopersmith. They co-founded Merry Edwards Winery, and produced the first vintage of Merry Edwards Pinot Noir from purchased grapes.

As a young winemaker, Edwards admits to underestimating the importance of viticulture, but over time she developed an acute focus on the vineyards. "We recognized that we couldn't make the kinds of wines we wanted to make without our own vineyards," she says. Following the planting of Meredith Estate Vineyard in 1998, she developed five more sites, the last being a 10-acre parcel surrounding her home planted in 2015 and bringing her estate vineyard total to 79 acres.

Over the past two decades, Edwards' wines have swelled in popularity. The 28,000-case brand focuses on terroir-driven Pinot Noirs, including single-vineyard wines from her estates, as well as from long-term leases. She also makes a small amount of Chardonnay and a barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc.

Michael Marquand Merry’s husband, Ken Coopersmith, co-founded the winery with her and has worked alongside her and helped promote the wines.

Looking back, Edwards says milestones have hit her in stages. "It wasn’t until the early 2000s, when the brand started getting recognized that things started to sink in," she says. Her wines have been included in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year on six occasions, including a Top 10 spot for her 2007 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and she is part of the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame. "I’ve always tried to not let anything go to my head," Edwards says. "If you’re on top, you have to keep performing and make the next best wine."

The Next Chapter

Last year, Edwards handed over winemaking duties to her assistant, Heidi von der Mehden, as part of her succession plans. "A decade ago, I started thinking about what I needed to do in my physical health so I could live until 90," quips Edwards, now 71, noting a regimen of Bikram yoga, gardening and keeping up with two grandchildren.

Both Edwards and Coopersmith plan to stay on for at least the first year during the transition phase with Roederer. She says even though she won’t be making the wines and running the business, she won’t be sitting still. "We’re used to traveling a lot for business, but not enough for fun, and there are lots of places we’d like to go."

Edwards credits her success to not getting too rigid about anything when it comes to big decisions. It’s her flexibility, after all, that lead to selling the winery and vineyards. "I [initially] hadn’t thought about what to do in the future," she admits, noting that she also never thought she’d be able to afford to build a winery, or have vineyards. "And now I stop and go, 'Wow, a lot has happened.' We’ve made a lot happen, and put the money back into what we’ve made," she says, pausing, "Not bad for a girl from Pasadena."

Oscars Wine Time! Rami Malek Sprays Champagne; Francis Ford Coppola, Wolfgang Puck Dish on Their Pours and Snacks (Wine Spectator)

February 25, 2019 - 12:00pm

Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek straight-up fell off the stage at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, but nothing was going to keep the newly minted Best Actor winner from popping Champagne last night. Malek was all smiles at the Governor's Ball after-party, where he took a break from showing off his golden trophy to blast a nice big bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Rare. Piper was the Champagne toast of champions for the evening; other winners—Spike Lee (Best Adapted Screenplay) and Lady Gaga (Best Original Song)—were spotted hoisting it as well. We salute Gaga especially; right after her win, she kept her eye on the real prize, immediately asking, "Is there Champagne?" backstage.

This year marks the fifth time Piper has been one of the official pours of the ceremony and after-party, and the house created limited-edition Cuvée Brut magnums for the occasion, decked out with custom-made red-and-gold Oscars-themed labels. Some 8,500 glasses of the brut and Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002 and 1998, were passed around throughout the night.

Robyn Beck AFP / Courtesy of Piper-Heidsieck No time for losers ….

Wines by Francis Ford Coppola were also back in the spotlight for the third year, filling some 14,000 glasses for the stars. This year, the director, winemaker and six-time Oscar winner himself wanted to spotlight his wine bottles as works of art to match the occasion. Exclusively created for the award show, the Final Cut 91st Edition Rutherford 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon and Final Cut 91st Edition Russian River Valley 2017 Chardonnay sported animated zoetrope-style label reels, which took five years to develop. "Winemaking and filmmaking are two great art forms that are very important in the development of California," Coppola told Unfiltered via email. "In both cases, you have to start with top-notch raw materials—whether it’s the land or a script."

And the focus on delivering quality land materials to Oscar attendees—Cabernet grapes sourced from Francis and Eleanor Coppola's ranch and Chardonnay from Sonoma's Dutton Hill Vineyard—was as important as showing off the stylish labels, said winemaker Sandy Walheim: "It’s the style of wine that the Academy loves, as well as the guests."

Courtesy of Francis Ford Coppola The labels do a dance when you twist the bottle.

No star-studded after-party is complete without bites, and the Academy called on longtime caterer and sometime crime-fighter for the big night Wolfgang Puck to run the show; his team whipped up more than 60 different hors d'oeuvres and small-plate entrées, including perennial favorites like his spicy tuna in sesame cones, truffle macaroni and cheese, and gold-dusted chocolate Oscars statuette–shaped treats. “I enjoy creating the menu every year for the Governors Ball," Puck told Unfiltered of his involvement via email. "We like for it to be the perfect marriage of innovation and tradition."

Puck wasn't the only chef Unfiltered recognized on the scene, of course: Humanitarian José Andrés was on hand to introduce Best Picture nominee Roma, calling it a "beautiful, intimate film.".embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Even viewers at home got a taste of Oscars wine magic, or wine-based spirits anyway. Hennessy debuted the 60-second version of its new short film, "The Seven Worlds," during the commercials, directed by another guy with a bunch of Oscar nods and a vineyard, Ridley Scott. The film takes viewers into seven different worlds meant to represent the seven flavor profiles found in its new bottling of Hennessy X.O., and there's a four-minute cut as well.

“I was attracted to this project because I was inspired by the potential for art and entertainment to bring this story to life," Scott told Unfiltered via email. "I think people will be stunned when they see the film.” Strong words for a Cognac ad, you may think, but Scott has a reputation has a pretty deft ad man; you may remember a little spot he once directed for Apple called "1984" from being the most famous commercial of all time.

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Tuscan Winemaker Bibi Graetz Buys Historic Hotel Near Florence (Wine Spectator)

February 22, 2019 - 3:00pm

Wine Spectator has learned that Tuscan winemaker Bibi Graetz has purchased the historic Hotel Villa Aurora in Fiesole, Italy, a hilltop town just 30 minutes drive from Florence. The property will be the Graetz family's new private home, as well as a winemaking facility and tasting room, and a renovated hotel that will open next year. The sale price was not disclosed.

Graetz and his wife, Benedicte Harper, had been looking for five years for a property where they could live with their four children, as well as move part of their wine production. "I'm used to having my barrels under my house; I wanted to keep this lifestyle," Graetz told Wine Spectator. "I'm very connected to my wines and I like to follow them all the time." He will move the production of his two flagship cuvées—Colore, a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo, and Testamatta, which is 100 percent Sangiovese—to the new property as soon as next week:.

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The Hotel Villa Aurora, which is located on the Piazza Mino square in Fiesole, a gorgeous hilltop town with views of Florence, was built in the 1800s. A lavish 27,000-square-foot space, it had been owned and operated by aging owners before the sale. Graetz says he saw a lot of charm and promise to it, comparing it to "being in old Naples."

Graetz is enlisting Italian architect Federico Florena to renovate the property, which is slated to reopen to hotel guests in spring 2020. There are 23 rooms in the hotel now, which Graetz describes as very small. He plans to transform them into seven or eight much larger rooms.

The hotel's Blu Bar, which was part of the sale, will also be renovated. Graetz says it will be a place where guests can have a glass of wine, and maybe homemade plates like bread and cheese, but he wants to keep it simple. The property will also include a tasting room open to the public; this will open much earlier than the hotel, currently slated for April of this year.

Graetz started making wine in his native Tuscany in 2000, focusing on old vines around Chianti Classico as well as newer plantings from his Fiesole estate, Castello di Vincigliata. Today, he owns or leases nearly 200 acres of vineyards and makes about 41,500 cases of wine every year under the Bibi Graetz label. For now, the rest of his bottlings, which include Casamatta and Soffocone di Vincigliata, will stay at the Vincigliata estate.

Sommelier Roundtable: What Are You Drinking—Besides Wine? (Wine Spectator)

February 22, 2019 - 2:00pm

Wine is a joy for most sommeliers, but it's also a job. And while plenty clock out for the night with a glass of Champagne or a sip of Sauternes, they often mix it up with other drinks from the broader world of beverage as well.

Whether seltzer, beer or spirits, straight up or on the rocks, made in Italy, Belize, Brooklyn—or at home—here's what 10 wine experts from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners are drinking when they're looking beyond wine.

Wine Spectator: What are you drinking right now—when you're not drinking wine?

Amy Mundwiler, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Maple & Ash in Chicago

Right now? It's winter. I'm drinking Bourbon. I gotta stay warm, people! I typically kick it old-school—if it's not neat, then it's a Sazerac, Manhattan or Old Fashioned. There are so many talented bartenders, I love to taste everyone's version of a classic Bourbon cocktail. I love the pride they take in it.

As soon as it gets warmer though, I'm determined to recreate the Kalimotxos I had when I was in Belize. There was this place called the Truck Stop in San Pedro and their Kalimotxos were absolutely delicious … yeah, red wine and Coke. But you have to get it just right. I'm going to do some experimenting until it's perfect. I might add it to the wine BTG list and mix it tableside. That would be awesome and hilarious. We have a serious wine program for sure, but we love to have fun with our guests and not take ourselves too seriously.

Elizabeth Kelso, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Craft Los Angeles

Beer! There are so many amazing local breweries in Southern California to explore, and I’m a huge fan of the resurgence of gose, sour and Berliner Weisse styles, as well as West Coast–style IPAs. I like that beers are session-able, have so much variety in personality and style, and don’t cause a serious hangover.

When I do have the occasional cocktail, I typically opt for a wet gin martini (I’m talking almost 50-50; long live vermouth!) or Mezcal neat.

Kevin Bratt, wine director of Best of Award of Excellence–winning Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab locations in Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.

I am not ashamed to say, anything beverage-related, I am all about it. I'm a big fan of gin, I like a good gin and tonic. I do make beer recreationally. I enjoy a light beer in the summertime in Chicago, but I also brew a Russian Imperial Stout on my own. I mimic that after the old Rasputin recipe—you can't drink a lot of those, but I do find them delicious.

Jake Lewis, beverage director of the New York–based Momofuku Group

If it's not wine, I'm usually searching for a well-made pilsner, like Vliet from Threes Brewing [in Brooklyn, N.Y.], or, when I can get my hands on them, either Qualify or Palatine pilsners from Suarez. Really, anything at all from Suarez Family Brewing [in Hudson, N.Y.].

Richard Healy, wine director of the Sydney, Australia,–based Rockpool Dining Group

A ridiculous amount of coffee (piccolos, mostly), but post-service, I’m a fan of beer out of cans. I think in the fridge now I have Yulli's Norman [Australian] Ale from Alexandria, from the Inner West in Sydney. Otherwise, I’m partial to Tommy’s Margaritas and Vespers.

Ben Teig, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Redbird in Los Angeles

I love a good after-service beer sometimes, especially if it was a long and busy service. I still find that the most important thing to drink is water; I know it’s cliché, but it really helps me to drink water all day long. Also, a nice tall cup of coffee in the morning.

Anibal Calcagno, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Indian Accent in New York

Right now, I've recently enjoyed Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky. I'm told it's new to the U.S. market and is doing very well in the U.K. I can smell this all day, and love the fruity and aromatic nose. The lighter mouthfeel and drinkability sets it apart from other single-malts.

Gabriela Davogustto, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Clay in New York

I love a Gran Classico Spritz. Also Negronis, and gin and tonic.

Philippe Sauriat, head sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Gabriel Kreuther in New York

I will enjoy whiskey and Scotch at some points. Some good Calvados also, but really, really good Calvados. Tea as well; I like tea.

Jon McDaniel, founder and wine consultant, Second City Soil in Chicago; former wine director of Gage Hospitality Group

I tend to have the palate of an 85-year-old Italian nonno. I love Campari, the more bitter the better, amari (loving Varnelli dell'Erborista) and barrel-aged grappa, which drinks like the finest single-malts. I have built a pretty cool collection at home from different distilleries, but honestly, if I get behind a bottle of Pellegrino or a peach-pear LaCroix, it's a win night for me.

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Louis Roederer Buys Sonoma's Merry Edwards Winery (Wine Spectator)

February 22, 2019 - 7:50am

The Louis Roederer Champagne house has purchased Russian River Valley Pinot Noir specialist Merry Edwards Winery. The deal includes the brand and its inventory, as well as the winery and tasting room in Sebastopol and six vineyards totaling 79 acres. The sale price was not disclosed. The founders of the winery, Merry Edwards and her husband, Ken Coopersmith, will stay on temporarily during the transition period.

Edwards is a Sonoma County wine pioneer and one of California's first female winemakers. Her 28,000-case brand is known for its structured Pinot Noirs, including notable single-vineyard wines. Edwards also makes a small amount of Chardonnay, as well as a barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Her wines have made numerous appearances in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year, including a Top 10 spot for her 2007 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc in 2009.

"The decision to acquire Merry Edwards was driven by confidence in her story and values," Roederer president and CEO Frédéric Rouzaud told Wine Spectator. "We are not buying a mass-market winery to make millions of bottles; we are choosing something that mirrors us: family-owned, with a specific vision for quality wines focused on terroir."

Roederer is no stranger to California. The company founded Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley in 1982, and now owns two other wineries in the region as well: Scharffenberger Cellars, which was purchased from LVMH Cellars in 2004, and Domaine Anderson, established by the family in 2012 with a focus on single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from the region. Rouzaud says they have been looking for a fresh opportunity in other appellations. They considered several other wineries before meeting with Edwards last year.

"When Frédéric came to meet me, we spent probably 30 hours together, talking about philosophy and vineyards; it was a very synergistic exchange, and we were simpatico from the beginning," Edwards told Wine Spectator.

"It's difficult to explain, but we felt very comfortable very quickly," said Rouzaud. He says that the fact that Merry Edwards was a family-run business was paramount. "Of course the wines and the terroir were important, but above that, her personality, sensibility and her story and vision made for a quick decision."

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Edwards' 45-year winemaking career began at Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in 1974, a year after she graduated from the University of California at Davis with an enology degree. She had a stint at Matanzas Creek, helping winegrowers David and Sandra Steiner build the winery and plant the vineyards, and consulted for many years during the 1980s.

She founded Merry Edwards Winery, with a focus on Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, after purchasing her first piece of land, outside of Sebastopol, in 1996. She planted the first of her six estate vineyards in 1998, and construction of the winery was completed in 2007.

Edwards, 71, stepped down late last year as head winemaker, handing the reins over to her assistant, Heidi von der Mehden. "When you're a small business, you're so busy—you're not thinking about the future," joked Edwards, noting that hiring von de Mehden was part of her succession plan, but that she didn't have any thought of selling. "Then about a year and a half ago, I was approached by a broker and began exploring the idea of what it would mean to sell."

She said it was scary to think about changing. "One prospective buyer told me that they didn't think they could do a good job of maintaining our legacy," said Edwards. She wanted to find a suitor that respected her employees and wouldn't tear the staff apart. "[Roederer doesn't] want to disrupt the success we've achieved," she said.

Champagne Louis Roederer was founded as Dubois Père & Fils in 1776, and was renamed in 1833 when Louis Roederer inherited the company from his uncle. It is one of the largest independent Champagne houses, making approximately 300,000 cases annually, and is known for elegant and ageworthy wines, most notably its prestige cuvée, Cristal, which is one of the most sought-after cuvées on the market.

Melissa Barnes Merry Edwards' Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs are among the Russian River Valley's best.

The Rouzaud family has continued the Roederer legacy since 1979, when Jean-Claude Rouzaud replaced his grandmother, Madame Camille Olry-Roederer, as president. Jean-Claude's oldest son, Frédéric, was appointed president in 2006, and is the seventh generation to carry on the heritage.

That family legacy intrigued Edwards. "They understand the dynamic of family life, and they understand the essence of our business being woman-owned because of their history, and I know they will nurture that unique character," she said.

Edwards said Rouzaud and his team also fell in love with her vineyards. "Merry's precise and rigorous attention to details can be seen in the vineyard," said Rouzaud.

The Rouzauds have always been ambitious and tenacious, but calculated in their acquisitions. "We are not a financial group. We are family shareholders," said Rouzaud, noting that they didn't need another winery to manage, but concluded it was an ideal and exciting fit to their portfolio. The family began seeking opportunities outside of Champagne in the 1990s, purchasing wineries in California, Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, Provence and Portugal.

There are no immediate plans for changes at the winery. Rouzaud says that part of Roederer's philosophy is to let wineries be themselves, and he hopes they can learn from Merry Edwards' approach to visitors and mailing-list customers. He believes that part of their challenge in the next 10 to 20 years will be connecting with their consumers—nearly all of the wineries owned by Roederer are closed to the public.

Rouzaud noted that they recently purchased a hotel at a ski resort in France as well. "We are diversifying our company," said Rouzaud. "Having a hotel and a winery with a strong connection via their direct-to-consumer model is a way to have an eco-system and be better connected to consumers."

Edwards said she isn't plotting her next move, and is happy to have more time for personal endeavors. "I want to leave the future open," said Edwards. While she plans to stay on for at least a year during the transition, she doesn't know how things will unfold for her and what she might be interested in taking on at the winery, or elsewhere.

"Things will happen, and there will be opportunities to choose from. Who knows, maybe Frédéric will want me to stay on as an ambassador," said Edwards. "I didn't have a long-term goal in mind when I started; my goals unfolded along the way and I had to create my own future, and it's been an amazing journey."

You, Must: Spend the Night in a Wine-Barrel Hotel Room! (Wine Spectator)

February 21, 2019 - 3:00pm

Some of us love wine so much, we dream about swimming around in a barrel full of the stuff. And while that fantasy is highly unsanitary and probably a little dangerous (try a bathtub instead), certain wine-minded holiday-spot proprietors are offering an alternative that's just as immersive: wine-barrel hotel rooms.

The travel trend has been popping up around the world: In the village of Cambres, in Portugal's Douro Valley, Quinta da Pacheca winery added 10 giant wine barrels to its on-premises lodging offerings in 2017. Each barrel room is outfitted with a double bed, a full bathroom, and a private terrace, and plopped among the quinta's vines. "They are a real success in the high but also in the low season," Ricardo Rebelo, a staff member at the hotel, told Unfiltered. "At this time we are already receiving bookings for 2020."

Courtesy of Quinta da Pacheca, De Vrouwe van Stavoren, Cava Colchagua and Alde Gott

In the small village of Sasbachwalden in Germany's Baden region, visitors to the Alde Gott winery can experience Schlafen im Weinfass (that's German for "Sleeping in Wine Barrel"), featuring eight 8,000-liter barrels, each with a charming vinous address, such as "Rieslingplatz" ("Riesling Place") and "Burgunderplatz." A one-night-aged experience for two includes two bottles of wine and breakfast, plus views overlooking the Rhine Valley, though bookings for 2019 are already almost topped up here as well.

You don't even need to be at a winery to get a turn in the barrel. At Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren in the Netherlands, guests can stay in one of the 12 novelty wine-barrel rooms that were shipped to the property from Switzerland. There are two different barrel room sizes—the smaller is 15,000 liters—and one of the larger barrels serves as a "wellness suite" for two, which could hold 23,000 liters of wine but instead has a couch, a Jacuzzi and a steam room.

And it's not just a Euro-centric trend. Chile's Cava Colchagua is an all–wine barrel hotel, created by the Ravanal wine family using barrels that actually once held early vintages of their wine. With more than 12 acres of land, the property includes eight two-story barrels, a spa, a pool and a lagoon.

"Rooms" at all four human cooperages start at around a reasonable $200, so if you're looking for hospitality sur lie, you won't find yourself over a … well, you get the idea.

If You Love Cheese so Much, You Should Marry (with) It, Says Costco's Cheese-Wheel Wedding Cake

If you're a Stilton who's found your life Port-ner, Costco has you covered for the wedding—with a five-tier all-cheese wedding "cake." Last May, just in time for wedding season, the warehouse club partnered with specialty produce and foods store Sid Wainer & Son to launch its Cheese Lover Artisan Wedding Cake, a union of sweet cheddar, Danish blue cheese, Spanish goat cheese, Tuscan sheep's cheese and French brie. Couples looking to walk down the aisles both marital and dairy can get a cake on Costco's website for $440 and plan on it serving up to 150 wedding guests (for cocktail hour? Dessert? All night? With charcuterie? Yes.). "The reception has been incredible," Jamie Wainer of Sid Wainer & Son told Unfiltered, pun possibly intended. "This idea has really appealed to brides looking for that 'wow' factor at their wedding."

Courtesy of Sid Wainer & Son A match made in Edam

Since the cheese wheels are shipped undecorated, said brides (and grooms) can choose to add flowers, ribbons, edible garnishes or what have you to take the "wow" to the next level, but many have expressed an interest in a more traditional look for their nontraditional wedding non-cakes: "Now that brides have shown an eager interest, we are working to bring all-white-cheese cakes to the site as well," said Wainer. And worry not about the wine: Bubbly still makes a perfect pairing for a cheesy wedding cake.

JNSQ Wine Makes a Dressy Debut at Rodarte Show with Diane Keaton and Brie Larson

The fashion world runs on wine: Just last week, haute couture and Haut-Brion teamed up to raise money in the fight against AIDS, and another style icon in the news—Karl Lagerfeld, who died this week—dabbled in Bordeaux chic himself a few years ago, designing the label for Château Rauzan-Ségla's 2009 vintage. Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for JNSQ Wines Model Rocky Barnes (left) and actor Jessie Ennis pose with rosé.

The latest wine with designs on designers is a California belle, though: The new JNSQ, a Central Coast rosé and Sauvignon Blanc dressed up in a bespoke bottle meant to evoke a vintage perfume atomizer, made its debut this month at the Rodarte Fall/Winter 2019 runway show. Rodarte founders Kate and Laura Mulleavy designed mesh "garments" for the bottles, tied at the neck with a rose, for the event's celebrity attendees, including known enophile Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Brie Larson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Dakota Fanning and Shailene Woodley.

"JNSQ shared the runway with some of the entertainment and fashion industries’ most influential icons, which made for an exciting initial unveiling," Clarence Chia, VP of marketing and e-commerce for the wine's parent company, told Unfiltered via email. "JNSQ has plans to break into the wedding and bridal space ... The one-of-a-kind bottle has already become a keepsake to many, and we anticipate it quickly becoming the perfect celebratory gift or addition to any bridal tablescape." (Right there next to the wedding cheese-wheel cake, of course.)

They're reusable, too: The bottles have resealable glass stoppers. The Wonderful Company that developed the brand (also the parent company of Paso Robles' Justin winery) suggests repurposing them as an olive-oil vessel or a vase for flowers, or perhaps a wine-themed home for your goldfish, to decorate the wine barrel you live in.

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Wine & Design: Modern Living in a Medieval Villa (Wine Spectator)

February 21, 2019 - 8:30am

"When you live in the flatlands, you see the horizon," reflects Matteo Lunelli, president and CEO of Ferrari Trento winery and CEO of the Lunelli Group. He does not live in the flatlands, but among the high peaks of the northern Italian city of Trento, where the view is both stunning and disorienting: "In the middle of the mountains, your horizon is completely changing and moving. It's a sensation that I personally love—for me, that's my home."

In 2003, Matteo, now 45, left a career at Goldman Sachs in London to join the family wine estate, one of Italy's most consistently excellent producers of sparkling wine. His wife, Valentina, 45, hoped to settle in the city, whereas Matteo wanted the country. Ultimately, they struck a compromise: They'd move into the urbane, modern duplex penthouse of a six-story building in the heart of historic Trento, surrounded by mountains. There was just one catch: That duplex didn't yet exist.

But the building did. A centuries-old palazzo turned hotel, it had been bombed and heavily damaged during World War II. In 1954, a renovation added a fifth and sixth floor. The Lunellis' real estate concern bought the building in 1993, converting it into rental apartments, and Matteo and Valentina moved into a top-floor unit in 2003. Six years later, they bought the top two stories, rolled up their sleeves and prepared to combine four modest apartments into one roomy residence.

"When you build [a home] not from scratch but from an existing situation, it is not an easy project," Matteo says. "It was very complicated." The process took two years.

The Lunellis worked with noted architect Matteo Thun to let the rugged surroundings into the apartment. Thanks to the previous midcentury renovation, there were already bigger windows than are typical of old buildings. "It's a warm apartment but with a lot of light," Valentina says. Under Thun's direction, frameless Sky-Frame sliding doors were installed to connect the living room to a large deck, and the floor-to-ceiling window in the kitchen makes it feel as though you're outside and inside simultaneously.

The kitchen is a high-gloss matrix of geometric precision, with bits of texture and warmth from a reclaimed-wood table and an eye-catching column wrapped in porcelain tiles. "We had to have a column from a structural point of view," Matteo explains. So they turned it into a design element.

Valentina feeds the family "a typical Mediterranean cuisine," she says. You won't find much butter in her kitchen, but there's plenty of good olive oil for "very simple cooking but with very good materia prima." And Matteo has a couple pasta dishes up his sleeve: During truffle season, he makes tagliolini al tartufo, and an Ischian chef friend, Nino di Costanzo, taught him and the kids—Riccardo, 14, and Vittoria, 12—to perfect their pasta al pomodoro.

Matteo is a great fan of the Italian convention of aperitivo, or predinner snacks and wine. He collects specialty products from all over Italy—Calvisius caviar from the town of Calvisano, Cerignola olives, the Parma salumi culatello, cured Sardinian bluefin tuna, Neapolitan bufala mozzarella, Frantoia Muraglia olive oil from Puglia—all of which winds up at aperitivo hour, paired with a dry sparkler.

The greater part of the Lunellis' wine collection resides in off-site storage, but they cellar about 300 bottles in the basement of the apartment building, which is mercifully dark, cool and constant. A small stash of drink-now bottles live in a Gaggenau wine cooler in the kitchen.

They love to collect wines from their children's birth years. From Riccardo's vintage of 2004, there's Tenuta San Leonardo and the Lunellis' own top bottling, Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, aged for 10 years before release. From 2006, Vittoria's birth year, there's Giulio Ferrari Rosé, the first vintage-dated bottling of that cuvée, and Sassicaia.

Matteo has also managed to amass holdings from his own birth year, 1974, including Gaja Barbaresco, Mastroberardino Taurasi, Col d'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino and Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore. "It's not because it was an amazing vintage," he says, "but there are some very good wines still from 1974. It's always fascinating to think about a wine which has your own age."

The Lunellis enjoy their aperitivo on the deck during milder weather, but during chilly northern Italian winters, they gravitate to the kitchen. "It's natural that it is the heart of the house," Matteo says. "It's part of the Italian culture, in a sense, but also because of what we do." Here, with a glass of bubbly in hand, the horizon shifting around them, the Lunellis are home.

Photo Gallery

Photos by Stefano Scatà; click any image to enlarge

aperitivo. Green furniture accentuates the olive trees, lemon trees and other plant life, and the prep sink area is made from the local volcanic paving stone porphyry." href="/contentimage/wso/Articles/2019/WD_LunelliC022019_1600.jpg"> Lettera d’amore alle muse del bosco, is by Nicola de Maria, and the bronze turtle shell is a miniature replica of the Lunellis' winery in Umbria, designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro." href="/contentimage/wso/Articles/2019/WD_LunelliF022019_450.jpg">

Gianfranco Soldera, Dedicated and Outspoken Brunello Winemaker, Dies at 82 (Wine Spectator)

February 18, 2019 - 12:45pm

This story was updated Feb. 20

Gianfranco Soldera, the outspoken winemaker and owner of Montalcino's Case Basse winery in Tuscany, died the morning of Feb. 16. According to Italian media reports, Soldera was driving on a road near Montalcino when he suffered a heart attack. Efforts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful. He was 82.

Born in Treviso, Soldera was working as a successful insurance broker in Milan in 1972 when he and his wife, Graziella, went looking for a wine estate. He found Case Basse, near the town of Tavernelle in Montalcino. There were no vines, but Soldera believed the poor soils on the hillside were ideal for Sangiovese. He gradually planted 22 acres, farming the land without chemical pesticides. In the cellars, he took a traditional approach, aging his wines in very large Slavonian oak vats called botti.

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Soldera was one of Montalcino's most opinionated winemakers, unafraid of criticizing his neighbors when he felt their wines weren't up to Brunello's standards. He also strongly opposed proposals to allow grapes other than Sangiovese into Rosso di Montalcino. His own wines attracted a devoted group of fans.

In 2012, Soldera confronted tragedy when a disgruntled former employee broke into the Case Basse cellar at night and opened the taps on the botti, destroying the equivalent of more than 6,000 cases of wine from the 2007 to 2012 vintages. The employee, Andrea di Gisi, was later convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. The crime left Soldera with less wine to sell, but when the Brunello Consorzio offered to donate wine from other members' properties to create a special cuvée Soldera could sell, the vintner resigned from the organization, stating he believed such a cuvée would trick consumers.

Soldera is survived by his wife, two children and several grandchildren.

Italian Authorities Uncover Counterfeit Tignanello Wine Scheme (Wine Spectator)

February 15, 2019 - 12:30pm

Italian authorities have arrested three suspects in a scheme to sell at least 11,000 counterfeit bottles of the legendary super Tuscan wine Antinori Toscana Tignanello in Italy, Germany and Belgium. First reported by Italian media, the arrests were confirmed to Wine Spectator by Alessia Antinori, vice president of Marchesi Antinori. She said the bottles were labeled as the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages of Tignanello but were filled with low-quality wine.

The Parma Public Prosecutor and the health divisions of Italy's national police in Florence and Cremona uncovered the fraudulent bottles. The police were able to prevent the fake wine from being distributed, and arrested Matteo Fazzi, 31, who remains in jail, as well as his mother, Maria Alessandra Morini, 57, and another man, Sergio Papa, 54, both placed under house arrest. The investigation is ongoing, however, and there are at least six others who are suspected of involvement.

Alessia Antinori says that Marchesi Antinori has begun adding anti-counterfeiting measures to its wines in recent years, including Tignanello, a super Tuscan red made on a small estate in Chianti Classico. "Starting with the 2013 vintage, we put the embossed logo [on the bottle]," she said. "With the 2015 vintage we added the embossed 'Tignanello' name and since 2016 we have been using a small label on the bottles to defend against counterfeiting."

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Very Good Dogs Sniff Out TCA Taint, Rescue Wine (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 1:00pm

Cork taint is going to the dogs—literally. Chile-based cooperage TN Coopers has enlisted the help of our furry best friends to track down TCA, TBA (2,4,6-tribromoanisole) and other harmful compounds that make wine unpleasant or even undrinkable, and plans to bring its highly trained team of wet noses and wagging tails to the greater wine world.

Dubbed "the Natinga Project," the program was inspired by airport canine security units. "The underlying principle is that dogs have a much wider olfactory threshold than humans, and thus can detect very small concentrations of specific compounds just by their sense of smell," Guillermo Calderón, the cooperage's marketing manager, told Unfiltered. Except instead of drugs and internationally-smuggled sausages, the Natinga dogs have been trained to search for compounds that create those unmistakable aromas of wet cardboard, damp newspaper or moldy basement that ruin the flavor of wine (for humans, anyway).

Courtesy of TN Coopers Moro's favorite treat is the knowledge that his work saved wine lovers from purchasing tainted bottles!

While corks get all the condemnation, there are other steps in the winemaking process that are vulnerable to contamination, including barreling. Cooperages have some tech to detect the presence of airborne chemicals, but it's not so easy to find the source of them. That's where the pups come in: "Natinga" translates to “search of origin” in the Zulu language. The project now employs five pollutant-detection experts, otherwise known as Labrador retrievers. Ambrosia, Odysé, Moro, Mamba and Zamba patrol the TN Coopers property near the town of Curacaví in Chile and also provide their services for wineries, with plenty of success stories to boast about, if they could talk.

Take, for example, this story of a winery experiencing problems with TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) at its facility: "After a morning of checking every corner, one of [the dogs] found the source and pinpointed an old hose that was contaminated. The winery removed it and replaced it with a clean one, and we thought that the problem had been solved," Calderón said. But not long after, the winery called again. There was still TCA. "We brought the dogs yet again, and again the dog pinpointed the exact same spot. It was then that we realized that the dog was not only pointing at the hose, but at a very small rubber ring located where the hose was plugged." Once that part was removed and cleaned, the TCA was gone. "The interesting thing is that the dogs were not wrong; it was a human mistake in terms of interpreting what the dog was trying to say," Calderón said. "Their sense of smell is extremely reliable and rarely ever misses."

TN Coopers hopes to bring the four-legged friends and their hyper-sensitive snoots up to California and other parts of the U.S. "We have received a lot of positive feedback from Californian winemakers who come to visit us at the cooperage in Chile," Calderón said. "I can say for now that we are training a new generation of puppies that will be able to carry on with this initiative for many years to come."

Abandoned Historic Church Reborn as Wine Lounge and Restaurant

Mingling with friends and neighbors while jamming out to live music and sipping wine: A party scene at the local watering hole—or church? A new wine lounge coming to Pittsburgh is a bit of both. The soon-to-be Mary's Vine began life in 1903 as the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Rankin, Pa.; the last Mass was held in 2011. But the cavernous vaulted nave and neo-Gothic pointed-arch windows reappeared—on Craigslist, seven years later—and caught the eye of a young Sacramento transplant named Jordan Stasinowsky.

Courtesy of Mary's Vine / Jordan Stasinowsky

"The pictures painted a pretty horrid picture of the interior, as the building had been neglected for many years," Stasinowsky told Unfiltered via email. It wouldn't do for a fixer-upper home, but Stasinowsky pitched another idea to his family: They could join him in Pittsburgh, renovate the place and open it up to the community again, as a restaurant and wine lounge.

One year later, the roofing, electrical wiring, plumbing, HVAC and paint have been replaced or redone, and the centerpiece, a two-story, 4,800-bottle, glass-enclosed wine cellar is rising in the chancel area behind where the altar stood. When Mary's Vine opens in April, there will be a list of 300 wines, a kitchen, and live jazz mixed in with some throwback tunes for those looking for that old-time religion. "Yes, the [original] organ will be functional," confirmed Stasinowsky.

Valentine's Day 'Bachelor' Wine Update: TV Singleton Celebrates Rosé, Copes with White

The Bachelor franchises, viewers may be aware, involve a lot of wine schemes. Drinking wine. Throwing wine. Romancing around wine. Romancing a winemaker? And of course, a winemaker, romancing.

Courtesy of 65 Roses Every day's a rosé ceremony for Colton Underwood.

Current Bachelor and former NFL player Colton Underwood knows the game—this is the show's 23rd season (!), after all. For his charity, the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation, Underwood teamed up with Denver-based Carboy Winery to launch a new rosé, 65 Roses, to raise money for people living with cystic fibrosis.

"The story surrounding the [wine's name] dates back decades to a young child with cystic fibrosis who, when hearing the name of his disease for the first time, pronounced 'cystic fibrosis' as 'sixty-five roses,'" Underwood told Unfiltered via email. "It's just the right mix of sweet and crisp, yet silky," he said of the wine, which is 91 percent Pinot Gris and 9 percent Moscato.

Though the rose man drinks pink, Unfiltered learned that he's a white-wine guy when it comes to dealing with highly distressing on-camera situations. A recent episode saw Underwood engaging in the time-honored "being sad alone with wine" Bachelor trope, and as he tweeted, "A glass of white wine never hurt anyone … or three." While Underwood told Unfiltered that the foundation hasn't yet determined if they'll be adding more wines to accompany 65 Roses, we predict the next would probably be a nice Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

Haut-Brion, Juliette Binoche and Haute Couture High Society Party Down, Raise $700K for AIDS Research

Prince Robert of Luxembourg, owner of Bordeaux first-growth Château Haut-Brion and Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner Le Clarence in Paris, is no stranger to a good time with food and wine. So Robert and his Franco-"American" wine operation teamed up with the fashion world's equally global citizenry to throw a grand “Dîner de la Mode de Sidaction" for a cause—raising money in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon Pamela Anderson and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier said a few words for the occasion.

Celebrities like Juliette Binoche, Line Renaud, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Monica Bellucci and Pamela Anderson were in attendance at the 17th edition of the fête at the Pavillon d’Armenonville in Paris. They noshed on Le Clarence chef Christophe Pelé's preparations of line-caught sea bass with beetroot gnocchi, foie gras, haddock and citron-caviar. To pair with Pelé's menu, gala-goers drank the 2015 vintage of Domaine Clarence Dillon's Clarendelle range, donated by the Haut-Brion parent company.

For those seeking bigger bottles and grander vins, an auction featured wines donated by Prince Robert: a magnum of Haut-Brion 2001, a magnum of Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 and an imperial of Château Quintus 2015. All in, the night, organized in partnership with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, brought in some $733,000.

Grand Cru Road Trip and Jeroboam Jaw-Droppers Entice in Burgundy/Curie Cancer Benefit Auction

Mounir Saouma has earned a reputation as a talented vigneron over the past two decades, establishing Burgundy's Lucien Le Moine and Châteauneuf's Rotem & Mounir Saouma as benchmark houses in regions where that can take hundreds of years. But he's also an ardent advocate for cancer research, and this week, he's united his passions in an epic charity auction to benefit the Institut Curie in Paris—the lab founded by Marie Curie herself.

On the block: a morning ramble through grands crus from Clos de Bèze to Montrachet, with 16 stops to taste along the way and wines from Echézeaux, Clos de Vougeot and Musigny in the mix. Bottles up for grabs—all procured by Saouma directly from the wineries—include a Salmanazar (that's 9 liters) of Lucien Le Moine Romanée-St. Vivant 2007, imperials (6 liters) of 2015 Ornellaia and J.F. Mugnier Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Clos Maréchal Rouge 2008, and Jeroboams of gems like '96 Pétrus, 2007 Cristal and the rare white Margaux Pavillon Blanc 2012.

"Remember why we do this," Saouma told Unfiltered via email. "Fighting with wine against cancer." The bidding has surpassed more than $90,000 so far, but interested players can still submit bids before 4 p.m. Burgundy time on Friday, Feb. 15. Get more details here or by emailing

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John Zimcosky Wins Wine Spectator's 2018 Sweepstakes (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 1:00pm

John Zimcosky is on a path familiar to many wine lovers, toward a deeper engagement with the people and places that make the wines he loves. As the winner of Wine Spectator's 2018 Top 100 sweepstakes, he can now use the Top 10 Wines of 2017 as roadsigns along the way.

"I love the overall variety of the Top 10," Zimcosky says of his prize. (See the list.) "I've never had a great Gigondas. I am just beginning to explore great Bordeaux; I have a case of Pavie Macquin 2010 but haven't tried it yet. I've only had one wine from Duckhorn, and not the Three Palms Merlot. That's the one I'm most excited about," referring to Wine Spectator's 2017 Wine of the Year.

The Chicago-based options trader, 33, began his exploration of wine when his former boss encouraged him to visit Napa Valley. "It was six or seven years ago," he recalls. "My wife, Laura, and I were dating at the time. Then in 2014 we got married there, at Brix restaurant in Yountville."

The couple have approached wine from multiple angles. They've visited Napa Valley on several occasions, where they joined a number of winery wine clubs, and have made trips to Sonoma, Oregon and Tuscany. John has explored the auction market through Hart Davis Hart. They've accumulated about 300 bottles so far.

"Wine is something that's interesting and fun to learn about," he says. "I'm curious about ageable whites. I think that's an area that's overlooked. My main focus now is Oregon Pinots and Chardonnays. They offer value, and I think it's an exciting time to be involved with the Willamette Valley."

"Mostly, I like to collect wines that come from places where I have a personal connection. I have to give a shoutout to Henri and Claire Vandendriessche at White Rock Vineyards in Napa. Henri is in his 80s but still working. We've gotten to know the family. The winery was damaged in the 2017 fires, but they're recovering. White Rock has a special place in our hearts."

The couple subscribe to Wine Spectator magazine, and the publication led them to Altesino in Tuscany, where they loved the wines. Though two small children may limit their mobility and budget for the time being, Zimcosky has no thought of leaving the wine roads.

"I guess it's evolved into a bit of an obsession," he admits. "I wish we lived in wine country. I think Oregon is a great place. But for now, we'll just keep learning and enjoy the journey."

Restaurants Offering the Finest Spanish Wines (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 8:30am

Updated: Feb. 14, 2019

From Andalusia to Rioja, Spain abounds with wines of outstanding quality, value and food-pairing versatility. And Americans have never before had such access to the diversity of Spain's many distinctive wines. These 12 restaurants from around the United States make their Spanish wine selections a focal point. To check out more great wine dining spots across the globe, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,500 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 91 Grand Award recipients holding our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to We want to hear from you!

Barcelona Wine Bar

240 N. Highland Ave., N.E., Atlanta, Ga.
Telephone (404) 589-1010
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Jeff Herr Decompress and people-watch with Spanish wine and small plates at Barcelona Wine Bar.

In Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood, Best of Award of Excellence winner Barcelona Wine Bar offers a taste of the Mediterranean. The Atlanta outpost is one of 14 Restaurant Award–winning locations across the country, with a moderately priced, 460-selection program led by wine director Emily Nevin that offers plenty in the way of Spanish and South American bottles. Chef James Burge’s menu of tapas, charcuterie and cheese is ideal for mixing, matching and sharing, and includes creative plates such as carrot hummus, veal osso buco with cashew pesto, spicy eggplant caponata and chorizo with sweet-and-sour figs.

Casa Juancho

2436 S.W. Eighth St., Miami, Fla.
Telephone (305) 642-2452
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Casa Juancho Live Latin music completes the experience at Miami’s Casa Juancho.

Tucked away in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, Casa Juancho will transport you to Spain. A Best of Award of Excellence winner since 1996, Casa Juancho boasts a 450-selection wine list abundant in Spanish reds and California Cabernets. Chef Alfonso Perez’s menu focuses on seafood sourced from Spain and south Florida, as well as a variety of traditional Spanish tapas, paella and prime beef. Adding to the ambiance, live Latin music and Spanish flamenco are performed every night.

Casa Mono

52 Irving Place, New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 253-2773
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Kelly Campbell Among the tapas at Casa Mono is the duck egg with mojama and black truffles.

For a first-rate Spanish wine experience in Manhattan, head to Casa Mono from B & B Hospitality Group, tucked between Union Square and Gramercy Park on peaceful Irving Place. There, the menu from chefs Adrian Pineda and Andy Nusser focuses on tapas, seafood and whole animals butchered in-house. The 500-selection, Best of Award of Excellence–winning list, led by wine director Rachel Merriam, offers enormous depth in Spanish wines, including verticals of Vega Sicilia Unico back to the 1960s, Álvaro Palacios L’Ermita back to the late 1990s and five vintages of R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva. Rare wines are also available via Coravin in 3- and 6-ounce pours.

Columbia Restaurant

2117 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, Fla.
Telephone (813) 248-4961
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Columbia Restaurant Richard Gonzmart is a fourth-generation family member and owner of Tampa's historic Columbia Restaurant.

In Tampa’s historic Ybor City neighborhood, on its vibrant main street, the family-owned Columbia Restaurant has been in business more than a century. What began as a small café known for its Cuban sandwiches and coffee has transformed into a Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurant. The wine list, designed by wine director Jim Garris, boasts 1,000 selections, with strengths in Spanish and Californian bottles, while chef Geraldo Bayona’s menu includes plenty of tapas, grilled seafood, roasted meats and paella. Guests can still opt to try the restaurant’s signature Cuban sandwich, made from the original 1915 recipe. From Monday to Saturday, the restaurant offers two flamenco shows per evening, as well as jazz shows Tuesday though Saturday.

Del Mar

791 Wharf St. S.W., Washington, D.C.
Telephone (202) 525-1402
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Del Mar Del Mar’s menu draws inspiration from the coasts of Spain.

D.C.-based restaurateurs Fabio and Maria Trabocchi are known for their renowned Italian concepts such as Best of Award of Excellence winners Fiola and Fiola Mare. At Del Mar, the couple tackles Spanish cuisine, offering a wine program with the same focus. Managed by Casper Rice, the 625-selection list covers a wide range of regions, from Rioja to the Canary Islands, with maps preceding each section. Del Mar’s wine collection includes 17 dry Sherries, which are listed with descriptions of their styles and suggested food pairings to help guide guests. The program complements chef Alex Rosser’s seafood-centric menu of tapas and other Spanish specialties.

El Meson

2425 University Blvd., Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 522-9306
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

El Meson The Cuba-born chef at El Meson serves an authentic menu of Latin specialties.

Near Houston’s Rice University in the Rice Village shopping district, El Meson has been serving its signature Latin cuisine for more than three decades. Chef Pedro Angel Garcia’s menu blends Spanish and Cuban influences, offering a variety of grilled and roasted meats, seafood and tapas such as piquillo peppers stuffed with lamb, raisins and pine nuts, seared foie gras with caramelized apple and pear, and bacon-wrapped dates with Riojano sausage and blue cheese. Earning Restaurant Awards since 1999, the 550-selection list is strongest in Spanish selections. It’s overseen by Pedro’s daughter, Jessica Elaine Garcia.

Julian Serrano

Aria Resort & Casino, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.
Telephone (877) 230-2742
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

MGM/Mirage Chef Julian Serrano's eponymous restaurant at the Aria Resort & Casino provides a taste of Spain in Vegas.

At Julian Serrano at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Spanish small plates take center stage. The acclaimed chef’s menu includes mouthwatering bites such as sautéed Padrón peppers with orange glaze, seared scallop skewers and foie gras with white chocolate bread. For large groups, tableside family-size dishes are available, including a 9-pound whole crispy roasted suckling pig served with seasonal vegetables. The meal isn’t complete without a pairing or two from wine director William Moss’ 410-selection list, which holds a Best of Award of Excellence for its emphasis on wines from Spain, France and California.

Taberna de Haro

999 Beacon St., Brookline, Mass.
Telephone (617) 277-8272
OpenDinner, Monday to Saturday
Best of Award of Excellence

Taberna de Haro An extensive Sherry selection awaits at Taberna de Haro.

Just a short walk from the Charles River and Boston University in Brookline, you’ll find Taberna de Haro, modeled after the tabernas of Madrid. The menu includes a variety of tapas and large plates, focusing on meats and seafood, with dishes such as squid ink and cuttlefish paella, grilled lamb chops with garlic-vinegar fries, and spiced pork skewers. The Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list is overseen by owner, chef and wine director Deborah Hansen; of the 320 selections offered, more than 80 are Sherry.

Barcelona Restaurant and Bar

263 E. Whittier St., Columbus, Ohio
Telephone (614) 443-3699
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Barcelona Restaurant and Bar Opt for a table on Barcelona Restaurant and Bar’s outdoor patio to dine surrounded by lush greenery.

In Columbus’ German Village, Barcelona has been earning Restaurant Awards each year since 2005 for its strengths in Spanish and Californian wines. More than 60 of the 235 selections on wine director Tim Hawkins’ moderately priced list are available by the glass, and guests can also select from four types of house-made sangria by the glass and carafe. Chef Julian Menaged’s menu of large and small plates includes dishes such as sautéed mussels, braised beef short ribs with scallops and aioli verde, and pan-roasted red fish with wild rice pilaf and coconut-curry cream.

Bocado Tapas Wine Bar

45 Church St., Wellesley, Mass.
Telephone (781) 772-2390
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Scott Erb Whether you opt for Spanish wine, Sherry or sangria, a meal at Bocado Tapas Wine Bar is reason enough for celebration.

Seeking great food and wine in Wellesley? Head to Bocado Tapas Wine Bar. Wine director Cassandra Carruth manages the restaurant’s 130-selection list, which holds an Award of Excellence for its strength in Spanish bottles; 20 Sherries are available, as well as several house-blended sangrias. Choose from diverse tapas dishes on chef Steve Champagne’s menu, including seared foie gras, grilled lamb chops and tortilla Española.


553 Manhattan Ave., New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 729-1850
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Award of Excellence

Jason Greenspan Clay’s airy space sets the stage for farm-driven American cuisine.

Clay delivers a polished yet unpretentious dining experience in the heart of Harlem. Chef Gustavo Lopez sources ingredients from small farms across New York and Pennsylvania to create seasonal dishes like grass-fed steak tartare and confit duck leg with butternut squash and Concord grape gastrique. Wine director Gabriela Davogustto relies on close relationships with distributors to secure the many limited-release wines on her 225-label list. While the international wine program stands out in Italy and France, Spain is its strongest region. Names such as Bodegas y Viñedos Raúl Péréz and Cesar Marquez y Raul Pérez are well-represented, in addition to smaller producers like Casa Aurora.


480 Seventh St. N.W., Washington, D.C.
Telephone (202) 628-7949
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Greg Powers Jaleo is set in a prime location in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the National Mall.

Opened in 1993, Jaleo is where celebrity chef José Andrés kicked off his career in D.C.’s culinary scene. The concept now has four Award of Excellence–winning outposts, with plans to expand in Dubai and Orlando, Fla. Its flagship location boasts 230 selections on the exclusively Spanish wine list, overseen by wine director Andy Myers. Chef Andrés’ tapas menu ranges from classics like patatas bravas to more inventive dishes such as salmon tartare in a trout-roe cone and a spinach fritter with apple-mustard aioli.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

Restaurant Spotlight: Settlers Tavern (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 8:00am

In Australia’s Margaret River wine region, Settlers Tavern is a bustling bistro, music venue and microbrewery. The restaurant's diverse live music performances attract a crowd, but the main draw for wine lovers is the Wine Spectator Best of Award Excellence–winning wine program. The 600-selection list excels in France but keeps the spotlight on Australia, offering sparklers, reds and whites from around the country with an emphasis on the surrounding region. Wine director Karen Gough makes frequent changes to the extensive by-the-glass program, always including a couple of high-end examples of local Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to showcase Margaret River’s strengths. On chef Rob Gough’s produce-driven menu, you’ll find everything from small bites like Korean fries and bruschetta to barbecue, burgers and international regional specialties. Using local ingredients is a big priority for the restaurant, which lists sources on the back of the menu. With a serious wine program and a fun, friendly atmosphere, Settlers Tavern is a destination for excellent wines without the fuss.

Turning Tables: Exciting New Restaurant Opens in Miami's Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 7:30am
LDV Hospitality Debuts Isabelle's in Miami's Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove

LDV Hospitality, the group behind Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners Scarpetta and American Cut Steakhouse, opened a new restaurant in Miami's Ritz-Carlton Hotel Coconut Grove, next to their Commodore bar. Isabelle's Grill Room & Garden serves a wide range of dishes, from raw-bar starters and salads to steaks and main courses such as lobster pappardelle and grilled jumbo prawns.

To reflect the menu's diversity, beverage manager Eman Rivani built a well-rounded, international wine list of about 115 selections. The program also emphasizes U.S. wines, including plenty of California Cabernets, as well as less familiar wines like white Malbec and Texan bottlings.

"I wanted to bring in some wines that are very, very unique—I guess you would say 'cool'—without costing a lot of money for our guests," Rivani said. The by-the-glass program offers 18 wines, and guests can create their own flight of any three selections.—J.H.

Dell'anima Reopens in Smaller Format Noah Devereaux The Italian fare at the new Dell'anima outpost

Just a few months after closing its doors in New York's West Village, Dell'anima, the Italian restaurant from the team behind Award of Excellence winners Anfora and L'Artusi, reopened in Gotham West Market.

The new concept, scaled down from the former 45-seat restaurant, is a 22-seat chef's counter in the Hell's Kitchen food hall; there are also communal tables where guests can sit and receive full service from Dell'anima staff. "People can really still get an elevated level of service," said managing partner Jacob Cohen.

The 30-selection wine list highlights Italy's Piedmont, Sicily and Tuscany and complements executive chef Andrew Whitney's dishes such as pollo al diavolo and a variety of panini on the lunch menu.—B.G.

Barcelona Wine Bar Comes to North Carolina

Barcelona Wine Bar, the chain that has 14 Best of Award of Excellence winners, opened its 16th location in the historic South End neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C.

"We love being a part of these kinds of special neighborhood-driven communities," said Gretchen Thomas, vice president of beverage for Barcelona Wine Bar's parent company.

Nearly half of the menu's Spanish-style tapas, crafted by executive chef and Charlotte native Nic Daniels, are unique to this location, but "the soul of the wine list is the same," said wine director Emily Nevin-Giannini. The list, consisting of more than 50 by-the-glass selections and nearly 400 by the bottle, will keep the chain's spotlight on Spanish wines, with other global picks from Portugal, South America and beyond. "We aim to have something for every palate and price point," Nevin-Giannini said.—B.G.

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Is Red Wine Triggering Your Migraines? (Wine Spectator)

February 12, 2019 - 12:48pm

Migraines can be debilitatingly painful, and regular sufferers will do almost anything to prevent them, including giving up something they dearly enjoy, such as wine. But should they? New research from the Netherlands' Leiden University Medical Center shows that while many people report alcohol—and red wine in particular—as a trigger for migraines, the relationship between the two isn't so simple.

"Alcoholic beverages have been reported in top 10 trigger factors for migraine," Gisela Terwindt and Gerrit Onderwater, both researchers from the study, told Wine Spectator via email. "We aimed to investigate which particular beverages are frequently reported by patients as triggers for their attacks, and also estimate the triggering consistency and time to attack onset after consumption of these beverages. Furthermore, we wanted to investigate the effect this has in alcohol-consumption behavior in migraine patients."

Using the Leiden University Migraine Neuro-Analysis study population, the researchers conducted surveys of 2,197 Dutch adults, ages 18 to 80, who suffer from migraines and fulfilled the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria. They asked questions about each patient's drinking habits, whether they believed alcohol was a trigger for migraines, and how often and in what timespan drinking brought on an attack.

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The results, published in the European Journal of Neurology, revealed that roughly 36 percent of the patients did consider alcohol as a migraine trigger. This belief affected many of their decisions around drinking: Among the 650 participants who said they had either stopped drinking or never drank, more than 25 percent said they did so because of alcohol's presumed triggering effects.

Of the 1,547 participants who were drinkers, nearly 45 percent did not report alcohol as a trigger, while roughly 43 percent did. (The remainder were unsure.)

When drinkers who considered alcohol a trigger were asked about a particular alcoholic beverage bringing on a migraine, red wine was mentioned most frequently (77.8 percent of the answers) and vodka least frequently (8.5 percent). Interestingly, though, only 8.8 percent of participants reported getting migraines after drinking red wine 100 percent of the time. "[This implicates that] other factors may also be involved," the researchers wrote. "Therefore suggesting total abstinence should not be a direct consequence taken by patients."

That finding is the primary takeaway of the study: "The association between trigger and attack is a complex one, likely influenced by other internal and external triggers and varying susceptibility," said the researchers. "It can be debated if alcohol is a factual or presumed trigger."

Even among those who do believe alcohol to be a trigger, there is no clear understanding of why. Is it the alcohol itself? Or, considering that so many believe red wine is a leading culprit, is there something in wine specifically?

"We currently do not know which compound(s) might be responsible for the presumed triggering effect, or whether other trigger factors may be in play," said Terwindt and Onderwater. "Testing various factors in an experimental, placebo-controlled fashion, one would be able to specifically investigate this." However, they note, these studies are difficult to carry out, and expensive, too.

Past studies have looked at whether specific compounds in wine, such as histamines or tannins, can trigger migraines, but the results have been inconclusive.

Keeping a record of when migraines occur, and the circumstances under which they are brought on, can lead to a better understanding of one's triggers, but migraine sufferers should continue working with their physician to best cope with the problem.