Champagne-Focused San Francisco Spot Comes to New York City

The Riddler is open. Plus, new restaurants in Asheville, four Del Frisco's locations close, and DB Bistro Moderne has a new head sommelier

Champagne-Focused San Francisco Spot Comes to New York City
The Riddler's wine list offers a comprehensive look at the world of Champagne and bubbles at large. (Jordan Wise)
Oct 24, 2019

A second location of San Francisco's the Riddler landed in New York's West Village neighborhood this month. The original outpost holds a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its wine list of 190 selections, nearly all of which are Champagnes.

The East Coast version shares the same focus, with an 185-selection list that's 90% Champagne. There are also other French sparklers from regions like Burgundy and Alsace, as well as from Spain, Italy, California, Long Island and England. Like the overall list, the 14 by-the-glass options comprise mostly Champagnes, plus a few international picks.

Beverage director Jonathan Adkisson aims to offer a mix of recognizable and hard-to-find labels in a comfortable setting, to intrigue guests without intimidating them. "I want people to look at the list and feel good, but then also have some curiosity," he told Wine Spectator.

He hopes to grow the program's breadth and depth while keeping it focused, and above all, accessible. "Our main goal is to lead with hospitality in everything that we do, and to get Champagne in everybody's glass so they can enjoy it as much as we do," he said.

Adkisson's New York list is paired with a more comprehensive menu than San Francisco's, with dishes including truffle risotto, a burger and raw-bar items like oysters and citrus-marinated scallops.—J.H.

An empty exterior of a restaurant/bar
Jordan Wise
The Riddler is the latest serious wine hangout in Manhattan.

North Carolina Group Opens Two Restaurants in Downtown Asheville

Hummus with other food dishes surrounding
Courtesy of Mandara Hospitality Group
Bargello's hummus with roasted local mushrooms, and lamb kofta kebab with bulgur wheat salad and pita

Restaurateurs Martha and Peter Pollay expanded their Mandara Hospitality Group, which includes Best of Award of Excellence winner Posana, with two openings on the ground floor of the Kimpton Hotel Arras in Asheville, N.C. Bargello, a full-service restaurant, and District 42, an all-day eatery and lounge, share a kitchen helmed by chef Jordan Arace, and a wine list overseen by assistant general manager and wine director Emily Dunaway.

Bargello features a large dining room with an outdoor patio, a chef's counter and seating around a pizza oven at the center of the space, plus a wine room for private dining. The menu incorporates a broad range of Mediterranean cuisines, such as Moroccan, Spanish, French, Italian and Israeli. Dishes include house-made pizzas and pastas, shareable plates like lamb kofta kebabs and crispy romanesco, and a handful of larger dishes from land and sea.

District 42 is more bar-focused, with a menu of small plates from Bargello as well as unique ones like Korean fried chicken wings and a wagyu beef hot dog with kimchi.

Both offer a 175-selection wine program, which highlights wines that pair well with the eclectic cuisine while representing classic regions. All the wines are either organic, sustainable and/or biodynamic.

The by-the-glass options are extensive, part of Dunaway’s mission to ensure there’s something for everyone while broadening guests' horizons. "I hope everybody leaves with a little nugget of knowledge when they leave the restaurant," she told Wine Spectator. There are 28 wines in half-pours and full-pours, with diverse options from a Pinot Blanc to a grower Champagne.

Most of the list is priced under $150 and nothing exceeds $500, though that may change as Dunaway fills their under-construction cellar with more selections. "Now that we've got the base list done, it's more about finding wines that are true rock stars," she said.—J.H.

The empty exterior of a restaurant, with blue walls and upholstery
Courtesy of Mandara Hospitality Group
Bargello is in the heart of downtown Asheville.

DB Bistro Moderne Names Brittany Villafañe as New Head Sommelier

Daniel Boulud's classic French bistro and Best of Award of Excellence winner DB Bistro Moderne recently named Brittany Villafañe as their new head sommelier. The Brooklyn-born wine lover discovered a passion for wine in her travels around the globe, and developed her hospitality skills during a 10-year stint in Sydney, Australia, where she worked at some of the best restaurants in the city, including Best of Award of Excellence winner Rockpool Bar & Grill. Villafañe returned to New York and joined the team at DB Bistro Moderne as a sommelier in spring 2019.

The wine list at DB Bistro Moderne is French-focused with emphasis on Burgundy, as well as California. "Classic benchmark producers who show true provenance in winemaking are the pillars of our program," said Villafañe. "However, you can expect to see new and exciting producers that we feel are making excellent wines that offer something different to our guests who are looking for the next rising stars in our industry."—N.C.

A blonde woman in front of a restaurant
Courtesy of DB Bistro Moderne
Brittany Villafañe is back home in New York with a new gig and promotion.

Del Frisco's Grille Closes Four Locations

Four locations of Del Frisco’s Grille—North Bethesda, Md., Washington, D.C., Burlington, Mass., and Chestnut Hill, Mass.— closed Oct. 20. All held Awards of Excellence for their wine programs, which excelled in California and ranged from 190 to 425 selections. There are still 20 Restaurant Award–winning outposts of the steak house across the country.

Landry's hospitality group recently agreed to purchase Del Frisco's Grille and Double Eagle Steakhouse, two flagship brands of Del Frisco's Restaurant Group. The group will close on the sale at the end of this month. A Del Frisco's Grille spokesperson declined to confirm whether the closures were related to this acquisition.

"We appreciate the continued patronage of the many guests who have dined with us at these locations," the spokesperson told Wine Spectator in an email, adding that they're working to help place employees in other nearby restaurants. "We look forward to serving many more guests at our other locations throughout the country."—J.H.

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