Napa’s Press Restaurant Names New Wine Director

Vincent Morrow now oversees the Best of Award of Excellence–winning program, known for its unparalleled selection of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Plus, Top Chef winner Joe Flamm fuses his culinary influences at a soon-to-open Chicago spot, and more restaurant news

Napa’s Press Restaurant Names New Wine Director
In taking over the wine program at Press Restaurant, Vincent Morrow builds on the Napa destination's 15-plus-year history. (Courtesy of Press Restaurant)
Apr 8, 2021

Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Press Restaurant in St. Helena, Calif., has a new wine director. After stints at renowned destinations including Grand Award winners Gary Danko and the French Laundry, Vincent Morrow will now oversee the list at the Napa restaurant, which claims the largest selection of Napa Valley wines in the world.

“I feel more humbled than anything else,” Morrow told Wine Spectator. “[Napa] is still very much a farming community … and I really tread carefully with taking over the wine list.”

While he’s looking forward to contributing to the program, Morrow stresses that he’ll stay true to the vision of the restaurant’s founder, late vintner Leslie Rudd, as well as his daughter and current owner, Samantha Rudd. “It’s always been what Leslie had in mind: Put those three things—the food, the people, the wine—on a pedestal.”

To that end, he’ll be keeping the wine list Napa-exclusive. Morrow says this is the “magic” that sets Press apart from other world-class wine restaurants. He thinks of the list as a museum honoring Napa’s winemaking history. “It’s very timeless in a sense, and not many restaurants get the opportunity to be timeless.”

 Press Restaurant wine director Vincent Morrow
Honoring the legacy of Press’ founder and the wine history of Napa are top priorities for wine director Vincent Morrow. (Courtesy of Press Restaurant)

Naturally, this means offering many Cabernet Sauvignons, highlighting the older wines and pioneering producers that helped form the foundation of what the valley is today. “I think anyone can create a Napa wine list that has all the highly allocated things as long as you have enough money, but to really build the story into it and tastefully look for older vintages and great producers, I think that is more of a challenge, and that’s what’s exciting for me.”

He’ll also be highlighting other grapes that have been part of Napa’s history before Cabernet became the dominant variety—grapes like Charbono, Riesling, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Morrow says he may grow the 1,800-label list to over 2,000, but his first priority is organizing the cellar and working through some inventory that’s built up during the pandemic.

Cuisine will also play a role in Morrow’s shaping of the program. Toward the beginning of its more than 15 years in business, Press was primarily a chop house with large steaks and hearty sides. But more recently, the focus has been championing seasonal Napa produce as the centerpiece of chef-partner Philip Tessier’s dishes. “So we might have scallops from Hokkaido in Japan [on the menu] right now, but it’s not about the scallops, it’s about the fennel and the satsuma mandarins that are in season within Napa,” Morrow said. “That’s what we’re trying to showcase; the scallops just happen to be a great complement for it.” This creates more opportunities for guests to explore wines beyond Cabernet.

At the same time, there are plenty of red-meat options for experiencing the classic pairing, like A5 Wagyu and New York strip aged for 35 days. “Then you can really dig deep into some of these wineries with stories from the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, and who was making the wine at the time,” Morrow said. “That’s the fun part.”—Julie Harans

BLVD Chicago Team Launches Italian-Croatian Spot with Chef Joe Flamm

 Chef Joe Flamm in his apron
In Chicago’s Fulton Market, Rose Mary is chef Joe Flamm’s first restaurant opening. (Courtesy of Rose Mary)

Chef Joe Flamm and the owners of Award of Excellence winner BLVD Chicago are bringing a new restaurant to the Windy City: Rose Mary. This is Flamm’s first restaurant, and his latest venture since winning Bravo’s Top Chef in 2018 and leaving Best of Award of Excellence winner Spiaggia. “Rose Mary is the culmination of everything I have done with my career,” Flamm told Wine Spectator via email.

Opening April 20 in Chicago’s Fulton Market, Rose Mary is inspired by Flamm’s Italian background and his trips along Croatia’s Adriatic coast with his wife, Hillary, who is from Croatia. The wine list follows suit and is packed with Croatian, Italian and Slovenian picks. Overseen by wine director Sarah Traynor, it totals about 150 labels, but there are plans to grow the program toward its 300-selection capacity. The focus is on smaller and lesser-known wineries practicing sustainable, organic and biodynamic techniques, which is set to give Rose Mary’s wine program more of a “wine-bar feel” than the more classic selections at Spiaggia and BLVD.

Flamm’s menu fuses Italian and Croatian influences to offer what he refers to as “Adriatic drinking food.” Dishes include rosewater fritule (a Croatian fritter), pork ribs pampanella, pinzimonio salad and branzino paprikás. There will be several pastas and risottos, as well as seafood and meat grilled over Rose Mary’s 8-foot charcoal hearth. Pastry chef Hillary Grossman will craft the sweeter fare, and guests can enjoy these dishes in Rose Mary’s dining room or on its patio. “It’s the food you find at lively restaurants and taverns on the side of the road in countries along the Adriatic,” Flamm said. “Somewhere that’s casual and fun, with food that’s vibrant, bold, super flavorful.”

Rose Mary is of course named for the herb rosemary, which grows along both the Italian and Croatian coastlines. It’s also a tribute to Flamm’s grandmother Mary Rose and his other grandmother Mary, who inspired the chef’s early passion for Italian cooking.

The space takes aesthetic cues from the Croatian coast, featuring whitewashed brick walls with accents of red clay and blue tile, and plants that allude to the Adriatic’s flora. “[Rose Mary is] a marriage of who I am, what I’ve learned, and the person I’ve built a life and a family with,” Flamm said.—Collin Dreizen

Wolfgang Puck Debuts Two Restaurants at New Los Angeles Hotel

 Merois dining room interior
Merois is currently only open to guests and residents of the Pendry West Hollywood, as well as its social-club members, but the restaurant will open to the public in a matter of weeks. (Christian Horan for Pendry West Hollywood)

On April 2, chef Wolfgang Puck premiered two restaurants at the new Pendry West Hollywood luxury hotel in Los Angeles: Merois and Ospero. The venues join Puck’s noteworthy portfolio that includes Spago’s Grand Award–winning location in Beverly Hills, his first restaurant, and its Best of Award of Excellence–winning location in Las Vegas. The openings were slated for earlier this year, but delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ospero is a French- and Italian-influenced eatery, while Merois combines Asian flavors with California ingredients and French techniques in a fine-dining, rooftop atmosphere. “Los Angeles, more specifically Sunset Boulevard, is where it all started, and Wolfgang wanted to bring us back,” said the restaurants’ general manager (and Puck’s son), Byron Puck. “And we are doing it with a brand that has similar creativity, mindset, design and overall outlook on hospitality.”

Byron oversees the restaurants’ wine lists with the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group beverage team. At Ospero, he says the wine program reflects the menu’s “fusion between a French bistro and an Italian trattoria.” The 100-selection list is loaded with Champagne and Burgundy, with additional picks from Spain’s Rioja and France’s Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. There’s also Barolo, Barbaresco and Tuscan labels, from top Italian wineries like Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido.

The more casual concept, Ospero has a sun-filled space with floor-to-ceiling windows and café-style seating, plus a few high-top tables. The menu features pizzas from a wood-fired oven and dishes like rigatoni with spicy turkey Bolognese, ricotta gnocchi, roasted branzino, prosciutto panini and burrata with heirloom tomatoes. Mark Andelbradt is the executive chef at both restaurants, following his leading role at Spago Las Vegas.

Merois’ 450-label selection is similarly eclectic, but more suited to the menu’s range of Asian flavors. “I tend to go very heavy on the high-acid white wines,” Byron said. This includes white Burgundies, Rieslings and other German and Austrian wines.

Andelbradt draws on Japanese and Southeast Asian influences, for a menu that includes dishes like Peking duck, seared Maine scallops, grilled octopus and vegan sushi. For now, Merois is only available to Pendry’s guests and residents, and to members of The Britely social club. It’s expected to open to the public in about a month.

“We want to provide a fun experience without the expense of taste, flavor and presentation,” Byron says of both restaurants. “We want to create an environment for people to come together again and enjoy themselves while also maintaining a certain level of excellence.”—C.D.

Goodnight Hospitality Opens Restaurant Side of March Lounge

 Overhead shot of caviar service at March
March’s caviar service includes accompaniments like spiced egg yolk, cauliflower crème and rose labneh. (Julie Soefer Photography)

Late last year, Goodnight Hospitality debuted the lounge portion of its Houston fine-dining concept, March, serving a prix-fixe wine-and-food experience ahead of the full opening. Now the group behind Award of Excellence winner Rosie Cannonball has unveiled the rest of the restaurant, featuring a regionally focused menu and a robust wine list.

In the art-filled dining room, guests can select either a six- or nine-course tasting menu with an evolving geographic theme. Chef-partner Felipe Riccio’s first menu explores Maghreb, the northwest region of Africa, with dishes like tuna ventresca, a “fifth-quarter tagine” utilizing lesser-used cuts of meat and a dessert of heirloom turmeric and honey.

The 1,400-selection wine list was built by Goodnight Hospitality partner June Rodil in collaboration with March’s general manager and beverage director, Mark Sayre. The program shows impressive depth, with extensive verticals of grower Champagne, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and red Burgundy. Those picks are rounded out by noted selections from South Africa, Germany and Italy.

Both menus are available with standard or premier wine pairings, priced at $65 and $125, respectively, for the six-course menu, and $85 and $185 for the nine-course option.—Taylor McBride


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