8 Restaurants with Star Sommeliers

The tasting aces at these diverse places lend their skills to Wine Spectator's New York Wine Experience

8 Restaurants with Star Sommeliers
Napa Valley's Press Restaurant boasts a world-class collection of California wines. (Eric Wolfinger)
Oct 19, 2022

How important are the sommelier's tasting chops to a restaurant's wine program? Well, we certainly value them at Wine Spectator's New York Wine Experience, which will be held this year Oct. 20–22. Guests will get the chance to taste dozens of rare and exciting wines from top producers—but before each glass is served, a team of crack sommeliers from around the world works behind the scenes to ensure that each pour is perfect. The somms are lending their talents and time for a good cause: The event benefits the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. These wine pros’ mastery will shine this weekend, but their impeccable taste can also be appreciated at the Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning establishments where they ply their skills year-round. We’ve highlighted 8 diverse spots where the wine lists are testaments to the passionate wine pros behind them.

This is just a small sampling of standout wine spots. For more wine-and-food destinations around the world, search all of Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Award–winning restaurants, including all our Grand Award recipients.

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

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change..

Grill 23 & Bar

161 Berkeley St., Boston, Mass.
Telephone (617) 542-2255
Website www.grill23.com
Grand Award

 Brahm Callahan
Brahm Callahan oversees the wine programs at Himmel Hospitality Group’s restaurants, including Grand Award winner Grill 23. (Courtesy of Himmel Hospitality Group)

Founded in Boston’s historic Back Bay in 1983, Grand Award winner Grill 23 & Bar is a leader among the East Coast’s heavyweight, steak-house champs, and its wine program serves the knockout punch. What’s more, it’s one of four Restaurant Award winners within Massachusetts’s Himmel Hospitality Group, joined by Harvest, the Banks Fish House and Bistro du Midi. Corporate beverage director and Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan oversees the wine lists at all four locations. Before taking on this role, he had been Grill 23’s wine director, and had worked at a series of other leading restaurants—and a wine shop—before that. Working alongside the restaurant’s current wine director, Hugo Bensimon, Callahan has put together a list of more than 2,400 selections at Grill 23. The wine list is stacked with horizontals and verticals of impressive labels from Champagne, California, the Rhône Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux, including bottles from Jean-Louis Chave, Leflaive and Agrapart & Fils. These are served alongside plates prepared by executive chef Ryan Marcoux, including taleggio creamed spinach with pancetta-brioche crumbs, roasted heritage chicken with sage risotto and seared scallops with pickled ramps.

HMF at the Breakers

The Breakers, 1 S. Country Road, Palm Beach, Fla.
Telephone (561) 659-8480
Website www.thebreakers.com
Grand Award

 Virginia Philip (right) and Juan Gomez
Virginia Philip (right) leads the wine program at HMF with the help of talented somms like Juan Gomez. (LILA Photo)

Set in a resort on the shores of the Atlantic in Palm Beach, Fla., HMF at the Breakers is one just three restaurants to maintain a Grand Award since 1981, the award’s inaugural year. This destination restaurant is a wine tour du force, with a program led by wine director and Master Sommelier Virginia Philip, who has been with the resort since 1999. (Philip oversees all of the Breakers’ other wine programs as well.) The 2,050-wine list is strong in picks from California, France and Italy—especially Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Rhône, Tuscany and Piedmont—and presented by a team of five sommeliers, including fellow Master Sommelier Juan Gomez. These wines join a menu of small plates prepared by chef Joey Tuazon, such as wild boar empanadas and swordfish souvlaki.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse Houston

5839 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 780-7352
Website www.pappasbros.com
Grand Award

 Robert Smith using a Coravin system to pour red wine from a large-format bottle into a glass
Robert Smith helps oversee the beverage programs across the Pappas Bros. restaurants. (Jack Thompson)

Steering the wine list for one Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurant is daunting enough. Yet, somehow, Robert Smith made overseeing three look like a walk in the park. Until recently, Smith served as the executive wine director for Pappas Bros., a Texas-based steak-house group that includes Grand Award winners in downtown Houston, in Dallas and on Houston’s restaurant-lined Westheimer Road. (He is now the fine spirits buyer and working on new and growing projects for the group.) Each location’s cellar is packed with pairings for steak-house classics, with wine selections numbering in the thousands. California and France are the primary strengths, including Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley. The collection is largest at the Houston Grand Award winner, where executive wine director Steven McDonald offers a wide variety of bold Italian reds, along with plenty of Champagnes for celebrations.

Press Restaurant

587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, Calif.
Telephone (707) 967-0550
Website www.pressnapavalley.com
Grand Award

 Vincent Morrow in the wine cellar at Press Restaurant
Vincent Morrow has built a massive collection of Napa Valley wines at Press. (Angela DeCenzo)

Home to one of the largest collections of Napa Valley wines in the world, Press Restaurant, set amid a stretch of tasting rooms leading into downtown St. Helena, pays homage to California’s leading wine region in numerous ways. Wine director Vincent Morrow, who received his Master Sommelier certification at just 31, earned the Grand Award in 2022 by crafting a 2,500-selection wine program stacked with Cabernet verticals from leading wineries like Mayacamas and Heitz. In addition, the program spotlights rarer grape varieties also grown in the valley: Touriga Nacional, Charbono and Friulano, to name just a few. Playing with Press’ original steakhouse concept, chef and partner Philip Tessier uses local produce to add a distinctive Napa flair to classic menu items, creating dishes such as oysters topped with green strawberry mignonette, dry-aged beef tartare with shaved daikon and poached lobster with jamón.

The Angus Barn

9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, N.C.
Telephone (919) 781-2444
Website www.angusbarn.com
Grand Award

 The Angus Barn and Henk Schuetemaker
Henk Schuitemaker has led the Angus Barn’s wine program for decades. (Angus Barn)

The Angus Barn has been serving choice ribeyes and tomahawks in Raleigh, N.C., since 1960 in a charming “rustic-elegant” red barn–style property, complete with barn doors and a barrel of apples (snag one on your way out). The wine cellar is overseen by Henk Schuitemaker, who started his career at the Angus Bar in 1985 as a server; he has been wine director for more than 30 years. Schuitemaker has consistently been evolving the list, which currently features more than 1,650 selections, brought together from a 26,000-bottle cellar. The main focuses are on California, Italy and France, with particular strength in Napa Valley, Tuscany, Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley. This offers plenty of pairing possibilities for chef Walter Royal’s menu of steak-house classics. Schuitemaker’s hard work has paid off: The Angus Barn has been a Grand Award winner since 1989, the first year he took charge of the wine program.

Tribeca Grill

375 Greenwich St., New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 941-3900
Website www.tribecagrill.com
Grand Award

 People dining in the Tribeca Grill dining room, with wine director David Gordon pouring a bottle of wine for two diners
With David Gordon (second from left) leading the beverage program, Tribeca Grill’s guests enjoy excellent wine and steak-house classics in a lively atmosphere. (Quentin Bacon)

Nestled in its namesake neighborhood, on the corner of Franklin and Greenwich, Tribeca Grill has become a New York classic since it was opened by Robert de Niro and Drew Nieporent in 1990. Emblematic of the downtown steak-house scene, it has been a spot for celebrities to gather, artists to lounge and locals to unwind. The wine cellar is helmed by industry leader David Gordon, who has been with Tribeca Grill since the very beginning. Gordon is passionate about wines from France’s Rhône Valley, especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as well as those from Burgundy and California. These regions are just a few of the strengths of his wine program, which boasts 1,800 selections and a cellar of 25,000 bottles. Gordon is particularly proud of his selection of aged wines across the list, including a significant number of values.

Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar

205 108th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, Wash.
Telephone (425) 456-0010
Website www.seastarrestaurant.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 Wooden tables and chairs with white cushions at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, with glass-covered racks of wine bottles and a sleek, modern design throughout
Stellar seafood and wine mingle at Seastar. (Darren Zemanek)

Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar doesn’t just offer fine dining and fresh seafood, it provides a world-class wine experience in Bellevue, Wash., on the opposite of Lake Washington from Seattle. With particular strength in Bordeaux—as well as California, Burgundy and Champagne—the wine program boasts an inventory of more than 17,500 bottles, including verticals of Napa Valley Cabernets and French reds. Wine director Erik Liedholm has put together 750 selections for guests to choose from; to help diners find ideal pairings for executive John Howie’s seafood-focused menu, he works with a team of five sommeliers, including Stephanie Schrankel. Each member of the team—as well as the majority of Seastar’s front-of-house staff—holds a certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. The sum result of this dedication is a wine program that has held a Best of Award of Excellence since 2006.

The Grove, Cucina & Wine Bar

8815 S.E. Bridge Road, Hobe Sound, Fla.
Telephone (772) 402-5410
Website www.thegrovehobesound.com
Award of Excellence

 Jen and Luis Reyneri with glasses of red wine behind two barrels atop which are a bottle and decanter of red wine
Jen and Luis Reyneri have offered a noteworthy wine experience at the Grove since founding the restaurant in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grove, Cucina & Wine Bar)

North of West Palm Beach, the Grove, Cucina & Wine Bar is worth a stop for visitors exploring Florida’s idyllic Treasure Coast. Founded by sommelier husband-and-wife team Luis and Jen Reyneri, who oversee the beverage program, the restaurant has wine at its core. The 1,000-bottle cellar stars wines from across Italy and California, from white Burgundy to Napa Valley Cabernet. Bottles from Spain, Italy and beyond offer guests even more options, along with 20 selections served by the glass. The restaurant also hosts a wine club, spotlighting the Reyneris' favorite new finds. The kitchen is headed by chef Ian McCue, who prepares comforting Italian classics to join the Reyneris’ wines, such as lamb Bolognese, creamy pesto gnocchi and, to finish off the meal, tiramisu.

Edited by Emma Grant and Julia Larson

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