Building an award-winning wine list takes unwavering passion. Maintaining a high-quality wine list requires uncompromising dedication. And expanding a wine list to make it worthy of world renown during a global pandemic is nothing short of a Herculean effort. This year, three restaurants have accomplished just that, earning Wine Spectator’s Grand Award—the world's highest honor for a restaurant wine program.
The Grand Award class of 2021 highlights three unique restaurants from across the country. Their location, cuisine and longevity vary, but they are united in a common passion for wine.
New Orleans staple Brennan's reclaims the title as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. "For this honor to coincide with our 75th anniversary makes it all the more meaningful, said wine director Braithe Tidwell. "[It] further inspires us to excel at fusing wine, food and service into memorable experiences, ensuring our guests’ happiness and delivering the world-class hospitality which has made Brennan's for generations."
Chef Eric Ripert and his team are masters of the art of seafood and hospitality at first-time winner Le Bernardin in New York.
"I never thought that we would have a chance at winning the prestigious Grand Award," said Le Bernardin wine director Aldo Sohm. "I guess that's life though; things happen when you least expect them. After last year's COVID-related challenges, this award means the world to me."
California wine country standout SingleThread Farms has been part of the Restaurant Awards program since opening five years ago, and now celebrates a new achievement.
"This has been a dream of mine to be able to curate a Grand Award–winning list," said wine director Rusty Rastello. "We are truly honored and humbled to be the first Grand Award list in the bustling wine community of Sonoma County."
The Grand Award is presented to restaurants that show uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs, typically offering 1,000 or more selections and the highest level of service. (Learn more about the awards criteria.)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program, which began in 1981 when the magazine honored 13 restaurants with Grand Awards based on their extraordinary wine lists. The program's goal was to both recognize and encourage excellence in wine programs.
In the past four decades wine has become de rigueur in restaurants and the number of Grand Award winners has grown from 13 to the 103 restaurants we honor this year, although unfortunately six of these have closed permanently due to COVID-19. Overall, the program recognizes more than 2,900 restaurants at three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award.
The full list of 2021 Restaurant Award winners will be available June 28 on WineSpectator.com, when the free, searchable database will be updated with all of the year's honorees. In addition, the website features an extensive collection of articles, including Q&As with leading sommeliers, chefs and restaurateurs, roundups of where to drink well and restaurant-related news.
All award winners will be featured in the Aug. 31 issue of Wine Spectator (available on newsstands July 13), which, along with the full profiles of the new Grand Award winners, also includes in-depth reporting on the restaurant industry's resurgence.