New York City has always been an epicenter of grand steak houses, and steak houses have long been leaders with wine. But even in elite company, few restaurants combine excellence in menu, service and cellar as expertly as Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in New York.
Anchoring the ground floor of a Rockefeller Center skyscraper, Del Frisco’s is a cavernous three-level eatery with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the iconic Radio City Music Hall marquee across the street. A grand staircase curving up to the second floor, wrought-iron railings and acres of polished wood paneling create the backdrop for the sanguine tang of a juicy rib eye and the palate-lacquering richness of a dark red wine.
The kitchen specializes in bone-in prime-grade chops, aged three weeks. A 22-ounce strip is tender, its flavor elevated by the interplay of rich fat and zesty seasoning, and the menu’s decadence ratchets up to a 32-ounce Wagyu tomahawk chop. Starters include classics like succulent shrimp cocktail alongside options outside the steak house canon, like escargot with prosciutto and diced tomato.
Del Frisco’s has spent years building the wine program to its current 2,220 selections, with an inventory of 12,400 bottles. The core of the list is perhaps the most sumptuous array of California Cabernets in any New York restaurant.
“We have many, many verticals, to showcase some of the great things that California is doing,” says Jessica Norris, who oversaw the New York program for six years and is now corporate beverage director of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group.
You’ll find Shafer Hillside Select in 10 vintages back to 1996 ($795), 15 Dalla Valles back to 1990 (magnum, $2,850), 16 Colgin Cabs to 1993 ($995), 13 Bryant Family to 1999 ($995), 11 Screaming Eagles to 1994 ($4,995) and a dozen or more each of Schrader, Bond, Lokoya and Caymus Special Selection. The restaurant’s No. 1 seller is Del Frisco’s Private Reserve California Cabernet ($70), made by Napa vintner and Pride Mountain alum Robert Foley.
Other gems include 10 to 15 vintages of each Bordeaux first-growth, including Haut-Brion 1955 ($3,150) and Latour 1945 ($4,900), deep verticals of Ornellaia, Vega Sicilia and Penfolds Grange, and 66 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
But sommeliers are also encouraged to champion more eclectic wines. A Sommelier Selections page includes picks such as Roagna Nebbiolo Langhe Rosso 2011 ($75) and Big Table Farm Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2014 ($99). “We are tasked with: Find the next cool new thing, and get it. And when somebody tells you you can’t get it, get it anyway,” says Crystl Horton, sommelier at the New York location.
The half-bottle selection, a favorite of the lunch crowd, includes Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands 2014 ($55) and Ridge Monte Bello 2009 ($150).
The New York Double Eagle sets the pace for an impressive countrywide wine initiative from the Dallas-based restaurant group. Del Frisco’s has 50 Restaurant Award–winning locations across its three concepts (the other two are Del Frisco’s Grille and Sullivan’s Steakhouse). The 12 Double Eagles in the Restaurant Awards program all have wine lists of 900 selections or more. “We’ve seen a number of our other restaurants [thinking], ‘Well, if New York can do it, [we] can do it,’ ” says Norris.
Front-of-house staff at all locations taste wine and take lessons from the sommeliers, and all are encouraged to follow the wine path as far as they wish. Del Frisco’s has proved that putting wine at the forefront is a winning formula for high-end chains, and it is training a new flock of American wine-service leaders in the process.
Read the entire 2017 Restaurant Awards package, including the cover story, “Building Identity Through Wine," in the Aug. 31, 2017, issue of Wine Spectator.