No doubt about it: 2020 has been a challenging year for restaurants. But amid the shutdowns and the strictly regulated reopenings have come inspiring stories, as an entire industry came together to support its members and the communities they serve.
Through the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, wine has continued to be a source of pleasure for diners and of profit for restaurants. The Wine Spectator team is pleased to recognize the achievements of nearly 3,800 restaurants, hailing from all 50 states and 80 countries and territories, that have demonstrated the passion and devoted the resources to create outstanding wine programs. The awards are given across three categories: Award of Excellence, Best of Award of Excellence and Grand Award.
“I'm so honored that we have won!” responded wine director Gabrielle Sonnier of Gabrielle Restaurant, an Award of Excellence winner in New Orleans. The restaurant had previously received an award before it was forced to close in 2005 due to damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina, reopening only in 2017. “We are a small, neighborhood, family-run restaurant. My dad and I have worked very hard in creating our wine list, and it's nice to receive validation.”
This year marks the addition of a new country to the Restaurant Awards program—Hungary, which has two first-time Award of Excellence winners, Fiaker and Felix Kitchen and Bar. “We hope that the first award for Hungary brings us more guests who will appreciate our wine concept,” said Máté Horváth, Felix’s head sommelier.
In 2020, 2,289 restaurants earned the Award of Excellence, which recognizes thoughtfully chosen wine lists that offer quality and diversity, as well as compatibility with the restaurant’s style and menu. These lists can range in size from just under 100 to several hundred selections.
The Award of Excellence “is a great reward for the work that’s gone into the wine list,” said Saint Urban chef-owner Jared Stafford-Hill, who returned to his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., after an extensive restaurant career in New York City, to open the wine bar and restaurant only a year ago. “We want to extend our clientele out of the area, so international press, like a Wine Spectator award, is very helpful.”
Another 1,387 restaurants achieved our Best of Award of Excellence, for more expansive lists that show a greater commitment to wine. Of these, 139 are new entries this year, while 140 restaurants improved their programs and were upgraded from their previous Award of Excellence. These lists, typically with 350 selections or more, offer an array of wines from top producers across a breadth of regions. These restaurants’ teams invest time in extensive staff training, carefully designed presentations, innovative menu pairings and showpiece wine cellars.
The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and is working to get back on its feet. We stand in solidarity with restaurant workers and business owners as they struggle to weather this crisis. Whether you’d like to donate, are seeking assistance, or want ideas on how to help your local restaurant community, check out our Wine & Hospitality Solidarity Resources page. Please join us in supporting our friends in the restaurant industry—because wine and hospitality are stronger together.
The Grand Award is Wine Spectator’s most prestigious honor, given to the world’s elite wine programs. This award is a reflection of steadfast dedication and unwavering passion to both building and growing an exceptional wine program year after year. These lists generally have 1,000 selections or more, present diners with a depth of vintages from some of the most well-known producers and include multiple bottle formats.
Beyond their exceptional wine lists, Grand Award winners offer the ultimate dining experience, with extraordinary cuisine and flawless service, whether formal or casual in style. Candidates for the Grand Award are required to undergo a rigorous inspection by one of Wine Spectator’s judges. Unfortunately, this year, travel restrictions and mandatory restaurant shutdowns made inspections impossible. As a result, there are no new Grand Award winners in the class of 2020.
Read updated profiles of all 100 current Grand Award winners, and be sure to check out our full coverage of the restaurant industry in the July 31–Aug. 31, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator, on newsstands July 14.
To find more great dining spots for enjoying wine, go to WineSpectator.com/restaurants, which features all of Wine Spectator’s 2020 Restaurant Award winners in a free database searchable by location, cuisine type, wine strengths, pricing and award level. To access restaurant recommendations on the go, try Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Awards app, available free in the App Store.
Throughout the year, keep on top of restaurant-related news and trends and learn more about the Restaurant Award winners in Q&As with leading sommeliers, chefs and restaurateurs. In addition, regular restaurant guides round up exciting dining spots in different categories, from restaurants with super-value wine lists to bucket-list destinations, and from wine-country venues that have reopened for outdoor dining to Grand Award–winning wine lists you can get to go. Sign up for our free Private Guide to Dining email newsletter to stay connected to the dynamic and resilient restaurant industry and its talented and passionate community.