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9 Wine Restaurants Worth the Hype

Seats are coveted for a reason at these culinary hotspots
Photo by: Ray Kachatorian
Owned by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, Maude is a Beverly Hills restaurant with a 325-selection wine list.

Posted: July 5, 2018

When a restaurant has significant buzz, it can boost diners’ expectations before they even arrive. So when a restaurant lives up to—and maybe even exceeds—those expectations, it’s a major feat that deserves recognition. These nine renowned Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners across the United States won’t disappoint, as long as you book your reservations in advance.

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,700 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 91 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

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!


ALINEA
Leading Chicago’s fine-dining scene for over a decade
1723 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill.
Reservations online only
www.alinearestaurant.com
Open for dinner, Wednesday to Sunday

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 800
Inventory 4,200
Cuisine Alinea draws diners from around the world for chef Grant Achatz’s tasting menu of 16 to 18 courses, ranging from $285 to $345. The “multi-sensory” experience features avant-garde dishes like “paper” made with dehydrated langoustine and an edible balloon. There is also a private dining option, as well as a 10 to 12–course tasting menu for $175 to $225 per person.
Wine strengths Wine director Sian Ferguson Nagan’s selections are strongest in France—especially Burgundy and Champange—and California. Nagan plans to grow the 4,200-bottle inventory so more selections can be aged on site and added to the list at the optimal drinking time.
Pairing paradise Most guests opt for wine pairings, which vary in regions and styles to accentuate the eclectic menu. Examples of recent picks include Krug Brut Champagne Grand Cuvée 164ème Édition NV, Pazo de Señorans Albariño Rias Baixas Selección de Añada 2008 and E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 2008.
Keeping on the cutting edge Though it opened in 2005, Alinea remains known for its modernity. The restaurant underwent a full renovation in 2016, complete with upgraded light and sound elements and a menu revamp.


Scott Frances
The Grill is one of three Major Food Group concepts in the Seagram Building.

THE GRILL
Extravagant steak-house dining in an iconic setting
99 E. 52nd St., New York, N.Y.
(212) 375-9001
www.thegrillnewyork.com
Open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 2,600
Inventory 25,000
Landmark location The Grill is part of Major Food Group’s triple-concept takeover of the Seagram Building, the former site of the Four Seasons and its legendary restaurant. The Best of Award of Excellence–winning list is also available in the seafood-focused spot the Pool and Japanese concept the Lobster Club.
Cuisine Chef Mario Carbone’s menu is the epitome of luxury American dining. There are expertly executed classics like prime rib and Lobster Newberg, as well as innovative signature dishes like pasta à la presse made with pressed poultry juices.
Wine strengths Wine director John Slover matches the high-level cuisine with a French-focused wine list highlighting Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and the Rhône. The program also stands out in Italy and offers an array of classics and cult wines from California.
Dream team Partners Jeff Zalaznick, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone teamed up with developer Aby Rosen on the ambitious project. Chef Carbone's namesake restaurant has three Restaurant Award–winning locations. Slover, the Grill’s wine director, has an impressive background including working as a sommelier at the now-shuttered Cru when the restaurant earned our Grand Award in the 2000s.


Le Coucou
Le Coucou serves decadent, upscale French dishes like canard et cerise.

LE COUCOU
A headline-grabbing destination for modern French cuisine
138 Lafayette St., New York, N.Y.
(212) 271-4252
www.lecoucou.com
Open for dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 750
Inventory 4,800
Wine strengths Le Coucou’s wine program is run by beverage director Charles Puglia, the former wine director at Grand Award winner Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. The list has a stunning collection of wines from France, excelling in Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône, Champagne, the Loire and Jura.
Cuisine Chef Daniel Rose created the menu of refined French classics, artfully presented and infused with a contemporary twist. Particularly luxurious items include veal tongue with caviar and filet mignon with bone-marrow juice.
Starr team Le Coucou is owned by Starr Restaurants, Stephen Starr’s group that includes 16 Restaurant Award winners across the East Coast.
Le Coucou’s café cousin Rose and Starr partnered up again to open a more casual concept in New York this past February. The duo’s French café, La Mercerie, serves French comfort foods and a wine list of about 60 selections.


Eric Wolfinger
Manresa takes diners on a culinary journey determined by the chef’s latest inspiration.

MANRESA
Classic French wines complement inspired Californian cuisine
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, Calif.
(408) 354-4330
www.manresarestaurant.com
Open for dinner, Wednesday to Sunday

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 950
Inventory 4,660
Cuisine Los Gatos, Calif., isn’t considered a major dining hotspot, but guests flock to Manresa for chef-owner David Kinch’s nightly tasting menus. The meal costs $275 a person, with a beverage pairing available for an additional $220. Some plates offered in the past include roast chicken with mushroom jelly, scallop soup with coconut and beef with prunes in black tea.
Wine strengths France is the strongest region on wine director Jim Rollston’s list, with standouts in Burgundy and the Rhône. The program emphasizes California wines with several verticals from Santa Cruz wineries. Germany is another highlight, featuring producers such as Keller and Emrich-Schönleber.
Element of surprise There is no printed menu provided at the start of the meal. Instead, Kinch takes the reins, turning out artistic plates from his latest inspirations. At the end of the evening, Manresa sends guests home with a list of the dishes to keep as a souvenir.
Local culinary leader Kinch also owns Award of Excellence winner the Bywater in Los Gatos, Calif. The restaurant has a wine list of 125 selections excelling in France.


NoMad Los Angeles
NoMad puts local spins on European-American dishes, like duck breast with apples and chicory.

NOMAD
The West Coast outpost of an acclaimed wine program
NoMad Los Angeles, 649 S. Olive St., Los Angeles, Calif.
(213) 358-0000
www.thenomadhotel.com/los-angeles
Open for lunch and dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 665
Inventory 6,245
Big-name backing NoMad is the first California project from chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara. Their Make It Nice hospitality group includes Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning New York location.
Wine strengths The former head sommelier of the New York NoMad, Ryan Bailey, serves as wine director. There are also about 60 wines available by the glass including “reserve” pours from producers like Château de Beaucastel and Nikolaihof.
Cuisine The European-American fare is similar to the flagship’s menu. In addition to new dishes, some signature items were adapted to the local market, like the roast chicken for two stuffed with black truffle and brioche and served with baby turnips and sesame.
Wine, dine and stay NoMad is the namesake restaurant of the Los Angeles hotel, housed in the historic Giannini Place built in the 1920s. Guests can enjoy the entire Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list throughout the property, from the rooftop restaurant to the lobby bar.


Aya Brackett
Quince offers a 1,600-label wine list that's strongest in Italian regions.

QUINCE
Superior farm-to-table fare and a growing wine program
470 Pacific Ave., San Francisco, Calif.
(415) 775-8500
www.quincerestaurant.com
Open for dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 1,600
Inventory 7,000
Wine strengths Managed by wine director Cameron Tyler, the program shines in Italy, especially Piedmont, as well as Burgundy, Bordeaux, California, Champagne, the Rhône and Germany. Tyler strives to offer particularly rare selections as part of the wine pairings.
Cuisine Chef and owner Michael Tusk serves a highly seasonal prix-fixe menu for $275. The Italian-influenced American cuisine includes dishes such as white asparagus three ways and lamb with artichoke, eggplant and black garlic.
Exclusive sourcing Up the California coast near a town called Bolinas, the family-owned Fresh Run Farm grows ingredients exclusively for Quince. The restaurant sources produce, flowers and more from the farm, so the partnership plays a large role in what winds up on the menus.
Dramatic presentations From start to finish, Quince incorporates wine service as a core part of the dining experience. A Champagne cart greets guests with selections by the glass, bottles are often opened tableside, and an after-dinner cart presents Madeira and Port.


Sushi Nakazawa
Sushi Nakazawa showcases the skills of Japanese-trained sushi chef Daisuke Nakazawa.

SUSHI NAKAZAWA
Authentic omakase transported from Japan
23 Commerce St., New York, N.Y.
(212) 924-2212
www.sushinakazawa.com
Open for lunch and dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 440
Inventory 1,810
Wine strengths Wine director Dean Fuerth features strong sushi-friendly picks from France, especially Champagne and Burgundy, plus Germany and Austria.
Cuisine Daisuke Nakazawa, who trained under the highly esteemed sushi chef Jiro Ono for 11 years in Tokyo, crafts this coveted omakase experience. The 20 courses costs $120 and change daily depending on hand-picked selections from the restaurant’s fishermen.
Front-row seat For an extra $30 each, guests can sit at the sushi bar and watch as chef Nakazawa and his team expertly prepare the courses.
Branching out Sushi Nakazawa now has a location in Washington, D.C., with a wine program of 130 selections also run by Fuerth.


Molly Matalon
David Chang brings a Korean twist to California cuisine at Majordōmo.

MAJORDŌMO
Chef David Chang’s highly anticipated Los Angeles debut
1725 Naud St., Los Angeles, Calif.
(323) 545-4880
www.majordomo.la
Open for dinner, daily

Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 155
Inventory 1,325
Wine strengths Wine director Richard Hargreave’s program presents contemporary picks from wineries like Liquid Farm and Tyler Winery alongside classics like Jacques Selosse Champagne and Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. California, France and Italy are all well represented.
Wine-centric company Majordōmo is part of chef David Chang’s international Momofuku Restaurant Group, which also includes Best of Award of Excellence winner Momofuku Ko and Award of Excellence winners Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Momofuku Las Vegas, Momofuku Nishi and Momofuku CCDC.
Cuisine Momofuku’s first West Coast venture combines California influences with the brand’s Asian flair, executed by chef Jude Parra-Sickles. The frequently changing dishes are based in Korean cuisine, from appetizers like kimchi and spicy cured crab to mains like vermicelli with shrimp and grilled skirt steak with chili jam.
Thoughtful pricing Through the wine list and the overall beverage program, Hargreave aims for a balance of high-end and affordable picks. “I love the idea of one table drinking old [Jean-Louis] Chave Hermitage out of a Zalto glass, and the table next to them having a pitcher of Hite beer," he recently told Wine Spectator.


Ray Kachatorian
Chef Curtis Stone opened Maude in Beverly Hills, Calif., as his first solo project.

MAUDE
A celebrity chef’s celebration of global wine regions
212 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, Calif.
(310) 859-3418
www.mauderestaurant.com
Open for dinner, Tuesday to Saturday

Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 325
Inventory 2,200
On-screen owner Maude is owned by chef and television personality Curtis Stone, who also owns Best of Award of Excellence winner Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Los Angeles.
Wine strengths General manager and wine director Ben Aviram oversees the wine program, which is strongest in Spain and France, especially Champagne, as well as California.
Cuisine The $125 tasting menu changes quarterly, spotlighting a different wine region each season. Stone, Aviram and chef Justin Hilbert travel the world to source inspiration for their next regional focus. A recent menu showcased Rioja with dishes like pan con tomate and pigs ear, and pairings like Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1986 and La Rioja Alta Rioja 904 Gran Reserva 1997.
Destination for discovery Maude has been open since 2014, but Aviram takes pride in never repeating a wine in the featured pairings. This ever-changing format means guests can continuously explore new regions and global flavors.


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