9 Small but Mighty Wine Lists

Carefully curated wine programs with 100 selections or less
9 Small but Mighty Wine Lists
Macchialina pairs regional cuisine with a concise, heavily Italian wine list. (Liz Clayman)
Dec 23, 2021

While massive cellars and encyclopedic wine lists certainly have their place (like at Wine Spectator’s Grand Award winners), compact programs have merits of their own. Fewer selections can mean less intimidation and more focus, like at these nine destinations across the U.S. Each offers a maximum of 100 labels, which is on the shorter end of the spectrum when it comes to Restaurant Award winners, but they provide particularly approachable world-class wine experiences.

These are just a few of the many standout smaller-scale wine programs. To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks.

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 as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.

Bywater American Bistro

2900 Chartres St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 605-3827
Website www.bywateramericanbistro.com
Award of Excellence

 Bywater American Bistro’s dining room and open kitchen
The dining room at Bywater American Bistro offers a peek into chef Nina Compton’s kitchen. (Josh Brasted)

The aptly named Bywater American Bistro is situated on the coast of the Mississippi River, right around the bend from New Orleans’ French Quarter. With an easy-to-digest wine list of 100 selections, this neighborhood spot is a relaxed, comfortable setting for savoring fine wines. Wine director Rosie Jean Adams’ program excels in France and California, though you’ll find an abundance of international gems from producers such as R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia and Gaja. The kitchen team, helmed by chef Nina Compton, draws on personal experiences as well as the local bounty to create a refined yet approachable American menu. Familiar dishes get creative twists, like golden beet gazpacho with buttermilk sorbet and farro risotto with minted breadcrumbs.

Coda di Volpe

3335 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (773) 687-8568
Website www.cdvolpe.com
Award of Excellence

 Coda di Volpe’s dining room
Coda di Volpe is part of Gage Hospitality Group, which owns several Restaurant Award winners. (Courtesy of Coda di Volpe)

It’s no surprise that wine is central at Chicago restaurant Coda di Volpe: The Award of Excellence winner is named after a local white grape in Italy’s Campania region, translating literally to “tail of the fox.” And Italy is definitely the star of wine director Torrence O’Haire’s small but robust list of 90 wines. In addition to the restaurant’s namesake grape, the list highlights a wide range of bottles from Sicily, Puglia, Campania, Molise, Sardinia and Calabria, as well as additional picks from Piedmont, Tuscany, Oregon and California. On the culinary side, chef Philip Rubino provides all the classics, including meatballs, grilled broccolini, octopus salad, chicken diavola and roasted branzino, plus a number of pastas and Neapolitan-style pizzas.


400 E. 20th Ave., Denver, Colo.
Telephone (720) 749-4666
Website www.copertadenver.com
Award of Excellence

 Coperta dishes
Kick back with inexpensive Italian plates at Coperta. (Courtesy of Coperta)

Named after the Italian word for “blanket,” Coperta is intentionally warm and welcoming, with an inexpensive menu and a relatively short yet strong wine list. Among the 90 labels, wine director JP Taylor Jr. provides picks from many recognizable regions, but he also strives to introduce guests to lesser-known places and varieties. This mission to educate and broaden horizons is furthered by corresponding maps on every page. Experience the diverse array of wine styles alongside chef Paul C. Reilly’s menu of Roman and southern Italian dishes.

The Love

130 S. 18th St., Philadelphia, Pa.
Telephone (215-433-1555
Website www.theloverestaurant.com
Award of Excellence

Philadelphia Award of Excellence winner the Love may feature just 95 labels on its wine list, but like the other Restaurant Award winners in Stephen Starr’s Starr Restaurant Group, it makes sure to impress. The wine program is strongest in French and Californian picks (especially Chardonnays and Cabernets), but it bolsters these highlights with a worldwide roster from regions like Sicily, South Italy, New Zealand, Tuscany and even Pennsylvania. This includes many pairings for chef Charles Parker’s mostly American menu of dishes like crispy duck salad, cauliflower with Buffalo hot sauce, ricotta ravioli and Thai-style salmon.


820 Alton Road, Miami Beach, Fla.
Telephone (305) 534-2124
Website www.macchialina.com
Award of Excellence

 Macchialina dining room
Cozy up with fine wine at Macchialina. (Adam DelGiudice)

In Miami’s glitzy South Beach neighborhood, Macchialina is an unpretentious haven for regional Italian cuisine. Born in Queens, N.Y., and raised in Avellino, Italy, chef Michael Pirolo honors his background through dishes like stuffed artichoke, veal Milanese and various pastas made in house by hand. Champagne is the only exception on the otherwise all-Italian list, which is managed by Pirolo’s sister and business partner, wine director Jacqueline Pirolo. She seeks out particularly exciting picks, encouraging guests to discover lesser-known grape varieties such as Vitovska and Gaglioppo. For those hesitant to commit to a full bottle, a majority of the 90 selections are available in half-bottle.


3936 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Ore.
Telephone (503) 200-5787
Website www.quaintrelle.co
Award of Excellence

 Quaintrelle hostess stand
Quaintrelle has rustic charm and a wine list filled with Oregon gems. (Aubrey LeGault)

Quaintrelle champions the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Within each section of the 95-wine, Award of Excellence–winning list, labels are listed from lightest to fullest. Oregon is the program’s primary focus, rounded out by classic international regions. Wine director Chris Cooper strives to show the diversity of the state’s wine regions beyond Pinot Noir, but you’ll still find stellar examples of that variety from producers such as Shea and Belle Pente. In addition to sourcing, seasonality is a major factor driving chef Ryley Eckersley’s regional American menu, which changes frequently, sometimes daily.


5600 Merrick Road, Massapequa, N.Y.
Telephone (516) 620-0057
Website www.salumibarli.com
Award of Excellence

 Charcuterie with rosé and bread
Salumi's selection of meats and cheeses goes best with a glass of wine. (Andrew Malary)

For high-quality dining that’s casual and affordable, consider Salumi on the southern end of Long Island. This tapas spot serves a collection of small plates from chef Lilly Kanarova, like shrimp in garlic sauce and patatas bravas, plus cheeses and meats that are also featured on sharable boards. Due to the size of the space, wine director Cassidy Rafsol limits the list to 100 selections, emphasizing Italy, Spain and France. Written on a blackboard, the rotating by-the-glass selections are all from the bottle list. Salumi’s team will also open any of the other bottled wines to serve by the glass, as long as you order at least two of those glasses.


1911 Fillmore St., San Francisco, Calif.
Telephone (415) 771-7779
Website www.spqrsf.com
Award of Excellence

Italy comes to San Francisco at SPQR, chef Matthew Accarrino’s Award of Excellence–winning tribute to his Italian heritage and to Californian ingredients. The results are dishes like crispy pork belly with roasted grape agrodolce, turkey agnolotti, hand-cut pappardelle with white truffle and, for something sweet, toasted panettone with zabaione. Diners can pair Accarrino’s menu with SPQR’s Italy-focused wine list. Wine director Thomas Uckung offers a taste of regions up and down the boot, and with just 95 selections. This includes a range of traditional-method sparklers, Northern Italian whites, Amarones, Barolos, Barbarescos and much more, spotlighting many leading wineries. Guests can also look to a number of California labels, if they would like something more local, including Cabernet Sauvignon from Heitz.

Sushi Note

13447 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Telephone (818) 802-3443
Website www.sushinotela.com
Award of Excellence

 Black cod at Sushi Note
Black cod is on the menu at Sushi Note in Sherman Oaks, Calif. (Jakob Layman)

Sushi Note is a beacon of fine Japanese dining in Los Angeles, matching choice seafood with an Award of Excellence–winning wine list. Wine director Claire Coppi’s program may be on the smaller side at only 95 labels, but it’s packed with picks sure to catch any wine lover’s attention. The primary focuses here are California and France, featuring many celebrated names from Champagne, Burgundy and Napa Valley. This includes horizontals from wineries like Pierre Girardin and Hirsch. Plus, there is a selection of older-vintage California Cabernet, and a global lineup of alternative options from Alsace, Rhône Valley, Germany, Austria, Australia and farther abroad, all fitting into the restaurant’s credo that wine and sushi “belong together.” Guests can also pick from a diverse by-the-glass list, which features everything from rosé to orange wine to, of course, sake. Alongside these bottles, chef Kiminobu Saito features a menu of classics like miso soup, kuro edamame and black cod in soy sauce, as well as a vast number of sushi and sashimi choices.

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