Barolo back to the 1950s. 130 grower Champagnes. Nearly 600 Pinot Noirs from around the world. 3,000 different South African wines—possibly the most extensive selection anywhere—served on a game preserve. With impressive offerings such as these, for 2018, seven restaurants have earned Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, the highest honor for a restaurant wine program, for the first time.
Joining an exclusive group that now totals 91 Grand Award winners located throughout the world, the 2018 winners are Ai Fiori in New York City; Barolo Grill in Denver; Le Coureur des Bois in Beloeil, Québec; Madera in Menlo Park, Calif.; Metropolitan Grill in Seattle; Restaurant Mosaic in Pretoria, South Africa; and Sistina in New York City.
“It’s an amazing, motivating and special feeling to win the Grand Award at Ai Fiori,” said Hristo Zisovski, beverage director for Altamarea Group, which also includes fine-dining destinations such as New York’s Marea and Vaucluse. Ai Fiori, which opened in 2010, had previously held Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. “We are proud to be recognized. To be in the company of [current Grand Award winners] like Tribeca Grill, Daniel and Per Se, in addition to the memories of such epic programs back in the day like Veritas and Cru, is amazing!”
The history of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award dates to 1981 when, in an effort to encourage excellence in wine programs, the magazine bestowed the honor on 13 restaurants with exceptional lists. As wine became integral to American dining culture and the quality of wine lists improved around the world, the Restaurant Awards Program grew. Today it recognizes more than 3,700 restaurants at three tiers: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the pinnacle, the Grand Award—presented to restaurants that show uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs, typically offering 1,000 or more selections and the highest level of service. (Learn more about the awards criteria.)
“Grand Award recipients represent the best wine lists in the world,” said Wine Spectator editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken. “I congratulate each and every one of them on their accomplishment.”
The full list of 2018 Restaurant Award winners will be available on the website July 2, when the free, searchable database will be updated with all of the year’s honorees. In addition, the website features a vast collection of articles, including Q&As with leading sommeliers, chefs and restaurateurs, roundups of where to drink well and restaurant-related news.
All award winners will be featured in the Aug. 31 issue of Wine Spectator (available on newsstands July 17), which also includes detailed analysis of wine-list trends and full profiles of the new Grand Award winners.