RN74 in San Francisco, the Wine Spectator Grand Award winner that courted guests with rare Burgundies and helped redefine wine’s role in U.S. restaurants, will officially close Oct. 7, having announced its pending shuttering this past May. Chef Michael Mina’s French restaurant and wine bar has operated on the ground floor of the Millennium Tower for eight years.
When it opened in 2009, RN74 was unapologetically wine-focused, yet also unpretentious. "I think it was one of the first restaurants to open which had a big wine list and was a Grand Award winner but was also super casual," partner Rajat Parr, and original wine director, told Wine Spectator. "We served incredible wines but it was all in jeans and sneakers and it was a little bit of a revolution." Service was key for the beverage program; the opening staff received training through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and throughout the restaurant's run, the focus remained on knowledgeable yet approachable guidance.
Burgundy was the star of the rotating list of about 2,000 selections. Named after Route Nationale 74, the French region's primary highway, the restaurant provided a destination for seasoned Burgundy lovers, and a roadmap for interested novices. Rising costs and wine prices, however, made Mina and Parr's vision of an everyman's wine bar precarious. "I'm happy that RN74 had a small role in promoting Burgundy and promoting the amazing people who grow the grapes and make the wines," said Parr.
Until closing next month, RN74 will celebrate its beloved wine program with various specials. Select bottles will be half-price on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Former RN74 staff will return for collaborative events, including former sommeliers Dustin Wilson, Christie Dufault and Eric Railsback. Past chefs Adam Sobel and Jason Berthold will also make appearances.
Mina's new project, a barbecue restaurant called International Smoke, will take over the space. The chef also owns 10 other Restaurant Award winners, including the Best of Award of Excellence–winning Seattle location of RN74.—J.H.
Rumors have been swirling around the opening of celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis' second Las Vegas restaurant. Though not much has been announced officially, Wine Spectator got some key details on the new project from De Laurentiis herself, including a sneak peek of the wine program, and how the new restaurant will differ from her Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner, Giada.
"I wanted to do something a little bit different," De Laurentiis said. "Since Giada is technically a fine-dining restaurant, and at times I find [it] might be a bit more than some of my fans can afford, I wanted to give them a taste of my brand that was a little bit quicker, something they could grab and go, that would be a less-expensive introduction to what they would get at Giada." The cuisine, the Italy-born chef explained, will be "very California-Giada-Italian," and combine traditional dishes with lighter, fresher touches.
The beverage program will have its own fast-casual spin. "We're doing a whole wine bar, where we'll serve the wine out of barrels … like beer on tap, but wine," she said. "I think that people will really enjoy it."
The still-unnamed restaurant will open in Caesar's Palace, right across the street from her eponymous restaurant in the Cromwell Hotel. De Laurentiis plans to break ground in the space on Nov. 1, and expects the new restaurant to open mid-January.—L.W.
On Sept. 19, a powerful earthquake struck central Mexico, the second deadly quake to hit the country this month. As emergency crews and volunteers continue to search for victims, Wine Spectator checked in on the area's restaurant community.
All 18 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners in the area appear to have been spared serious damage. Many, including Le Restaurant in Club France, Eloise Chic Cuisine and Sud777 are collecting supplies and cooking food for victims and first responders.
"Our country and its people [are] strong, and standing all together," Mónica Olvera Gómez, sommelier at the Presidente InterContinental Santa Fe hotel, which houses the Palm and Au Pied de Cochon, said via email.
Those wishing to make donations can find worthy assistance programs using CharityNavigator.org.—L.W.
In brighter RN74 news, Thomas Griese has officially been named executive chef of the Seattle location. Griese had been serving as interim chef since Ben Godwin left two months ago to pursue other opportunities.
Griese is a former executive chef of Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas and has cooked in numerous Restaurant Award–winning restaurants, including the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., Bouchon Las Vegas and Le Cirque in the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. He'll now oversee the kitchen at RN74 Seattle, which has held a Best of Award of Excellence since 2012.—J.H.
The Capital Grille opened its second Missouri location on Sept. 18 in Clayton, bringing classic steak-house fare from a Restaurant Award–winning restaurant group to St. Louis.
Managing partner Geoff Dill oversees the Clayton outpost's 350-selection list, which is presented on an iPad. According to sommelier Brian Phillips, the list offers wines from the core national program as well as location-specific selections. "I ensure each restaurant has a diverse wine program regarding varietals, regions and price points," Phillips told Wine Spectator via email. "From here, each location has freedom to add local character, wines and personal favorites."
In other Capital Grille news, the sixth Wagyu & Wine event is taking place through Nov. 19 in the lounge areas of all Capital Grille locations. For $25, guests can enjoy three Wagyu burgers paired with three wines from the Wagner family wineries in California: a Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, an Emmolo Merlot and a Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir.—J.H.
The Miami location of BLT Steak, which has six Restaurant Award–winning locations nationwide, has reopened in the Iberostar Berkeley Hotel. The steak house had closed in May 2016, when it was housed in the nearby Betsey Hotel.
General manager and wine director David Weiss said the restaurant reopened with a very similar menu, with a few additional dishes like a fig and foie gras empanada, inspired by the local cuisine of chef Carlos Torres’ native Columbia.
The wine list offers a solid half-bottle program of reds and whites, with more than 20 selections available by the glass. Weiss hopes to continue building the list with more obscure varietals from around the world.—J.H.
Award of Excellence winner Rural Society has closed after Loews Madison Hotel, where the restaurant was located, was sold to the Hilton group. The Argentinean steak house had operated in Washington, D.C., for three years and first earned its award in 2015 for its 145-selection list, overseen by wine director Lamont Rooker. Hilton is now working to launch new concepts to replace Loews Madison's restaurants, with no details to report yet.
Rural Society owner Jose Garces rose to fame in the second season of the Food Network's The Next Iron Chef. He has four other Restaurant Award–winning restaurants in Philadelphia and New York City: Amada, Amada NYC, Tinto and Volvér.—J.H.