11 Small but Mighty Wine Lists

Carefully curated wine programs with 100 selections or less

11 Small but Mighty Wine Lists
Macchialina pairs regional cuisine with a concise, heavily Italian wine list. (Liz Clayman)
Jul 18, 2019

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 11 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!


Barmini by José Andrés

501 Ninth St. N.W., Washington, D.C.
Telephone (202) 393-4451
Website www.minibarbyjoseandres.com/barmini
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Award of Excellence

Barmini
Ken Wyner
Modern design sets the tone for Barmini’s cutting-edge menu.

Tucked alongside chef José Andrés’ intimate tasting-menu spot, Minibar, is a fellow Award of Excellence winner that’s just as experimental and exciting. Barmini is more beverage-focused, with a lengthy list of cocktails made using hypermodern techniques and a 95-selection wine list emphasizing France. You can still enjoy chef Andrés’ signature Spanish cuisine through playful snacks like “Grilled Cheese 2.0” with two aged cheeses and honey mustard, and three variations of mini savory waffles. Corporate wine director Andy Myers manages the wine program, along with the group’s 13 other Restaurant Award winners across the country.


Bywater American Bistro

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

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

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 90 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.


Coperta

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

Coperta dishes
Coperta
Kick back with inexpensive Italian plates at Coperta.

Named after the Italian word for “blanket,” Coperta is meant to be 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 Reilly’s menu of Roman and southern Italian dishes. Monthly specials highlight a different region each time, like July’s Lazio-inspired items: artichoke ravioli and fettuccine with tomato ragu, chicken livers and pecorino.


The Lark

131 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, Calif.
Telephone (805) 284-0370
Website www.thelarksb.com
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Award of Excellence

The Lark exterior
The Lark
The Lark is a go-to for local eats in Santa Barbara.

The Lark is all about embodying Santa Barbara dining, from the local ingredient–driven menu to the abundance of wine selections from nearby producers. Chef Jason Paluska crafts crowd-pleasing dishes family-style, like caramelized cauliflower with black garlic vinaigrette, cured salmon with roasted shishito pepper aioli and crispy duck leg confit with a duck fat biscuit. The wine program is a celebration of local labels, complemented by their Old World counterparts made in similar styles. The 90 selections, mainly from California and France, cover everything from bubbly and rosé to fresh whites and bold reds. Wine director Hayden Felice showcases Santa Barbara bottlings from Blair Fox, Star Lane, Grimm's Bluff and more, with 18 wines served by the glass.


Macchialina

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

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

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 six different 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, nearly 70 of the 90 selections are available in half-bottle for a reasonable half-price.


Quaintrelle

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

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

Quaintrelle champions the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Within each section of the 90-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.


Salumi

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

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

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 Jonathan Cano, like shrimp in spicy garlic sauce and slow-roasted lamb neck, plus cheeses and meats that are also featured on sharable boards. Due to the size of the space, wine director Andrew Isaacson limits the list to 95 selections, emphasizing Italy, Spain and France. He approaches the small scale as a challenge to offer quintessential examples from each category. 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.


Sava’s

216 S. State St., Ann Arbor, Mich.
Telephone (734) 623-2233
Website www.savasrestaurant.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Sava’s dining room
Hayden Stinebaugh and Sava’s Ann Arbor
Sava’s pours premier wines in a bright, airy environment.

Sava's is set on the University of Michigan campus, where the restaurant delivers regional American cuisine by chef Gustavo Salazar and an Award of Excellence–winning wine program. Wine director Kelsey Wonsavage’s 100 selections excel in California and France. The list represents a broad range of grape varieties as well as wine regions, from Italy and Germany to Greece, Hungary and Austria. Value-seekers should take advantage of Sava’s specials, like select half-priced bottles from 5 to 10 p.m. on Sundays and $3 off wines by the glass during happy hour.


Small Batch

630 Old Country Road, Garden City, N.Y.
Telephone (516) 548-8162
Website www.smallbatchrestaurant.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Short rib tortellini
Small Batch
Small Batch's short rib tortellini with spring vegetables and red pearl onions.

This Long Island eatery is the brainchild of chef Tom Colicchio, who owns three other Restaurant Award winners in New York—Craft, Riverpark and Temple Court—as well as Best of Award of Excellence winner Craft Los Angeles. At 95 selections, Small Batch features the group’s shortest wine list, and consequently its most focused. Wine director Natalie Grindstaff fills the list with bottles the team is especially excited about, with standouts from California, France and New York, plus picks from Australia, Spain, Argentina and more. Colicchio’s American cuisine is driven by an overarching goal to support local farmers, and the result is a fresh, seasonal menu that strikes a balance between refreshing and indulgent.


Steadfast at the Gray

Kimpton Gray Hotel, 120 W. Monroe St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 801-81628899
Website www.steadfastchicago.com
Open Lunch, daily; Dinner, Monday to Saturday
Award of Excellence

Duck breast with soy, fried rice and kimchi
Steadfast at the Gray
At Steadfast at the Gray, global influences mark chef Jeremy Leven’s menu.

In the former New York Life Insurance Building, a landmark that’s more than 120 years old, Steadfast at the Gray serves sophisticated American fare in a space that feels timeless. Chef Jeremy Leven’s dishes get an international spin, like whipped feta with falafel and sesame and duck breast with fried rice and kimchi. Caviar service is available too, as are large-format plates for the table like a 35-ounce Colorado lamb rack and whole-roasted, dry-aged duck. Pair the bold flavors with bottles from the 95-selection list, which stands out in California and France. Wine director Aldo Corral homes in on small producers, though a 10-wine reserve collection includes bottlings from big names such as Bond, Château Mouton-Rothschild and Ridge.


Zero Restaurant + Bar

Zero George, 0 George St., Charleston, S.C.
Telephone (855) 242-1864
Website www.zerorestaurantcharleston.com
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Award of Excellence

Zero Restaurant + Bar
Zero Restaurant + Bar
Zero Restaurant + Bar regularly welcomes guests into the kitchen for intimate cooking classes.

Wine-and-food fans should take note of Zero George, a boutique hotel with just 16 rooms in charming Charleston, S.C. In addition to special wine dinners and cooking classes (including some with guest chefs from around the nation), it’s home to Award of Excellence winner Zero Restaurant + Bar. Chef Vinson Petrillo’s cuisine is available in two formats: A seven-course tasting menu that includes beverage pairings for $135 per person, and a four-course menu without beverage pairings for $65 each. Match the elegant American dishes with wine director Ashley Broshious’ 100-wine list excelling in France and California. Pricing is moderate, and three-dozen wines are available by the glass.


Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

Restaurants Restaurant Awards

You Might Also Like

12 Wine Restaurants with Lovely Lakeside Views

12 Wine Restaurants with Lovely Lakeside Views

Scenic waters serve as backdrops for these Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners

Oct 14, 2019
Restaurant Spotlight: Savona

Restaurant Spotlight: Savona

Take a detour to this longstanding, well-rounded wine program

Oct 14, 2019
12 Restaurants with Super-Value Wine Lists

12 Restaurants with Super-Value Wine Lists

Enjoy bold wine programs without the big price tag

Dec 21, 2017
Restaurant Spotlight: Restaurant Orsay

Restaurant Spotlight: Restaurant Orsay

A French-inspired bistro with a crowd-pleasing wine program

Oct 14, 2019
10 Wine Restaurants for Rhône Fans

10 Wine Restaurants for Rhône Fans

The renowned French region shines at these Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners

Sep 12, 2019
Restaurant Spotlight: Born and Raised

Restaurant Spotlight: Born and Raised

Modern glamour in a nostalgic steak house

Sep 12, 2019
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search