The magazine Wine Enthusiast has just published their annual Restaurant Issue with its list of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America. How does L.A. fare on the list? Would anybody like to take a guess as to how many local restaurants made the cut, and which?
In all, out of 32 restaurants in the West, SoCal gets the nod for five establishments, including three from Los Angeles proper. Hatfield's and A.O.C. were sure bets. But Animal is something of a surprise in this context.
“I like to highlight small producers who care deeply about their vineyards and understand not only the terroir, but the atmosphere as well, and who can make remarkable wines vintage after vintage because they’re truly artists,” says Animal beverage director Helen Johannesen.
The other two Southern California contenders are from the Central Coast: Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant in Santa Barbara and Novo in San Luis Obispo.
San Francisco dominates the West with seven restaurants: A16, Michael Mina, Nopa, Quince, RN74, Saison and SPQR. But that's not roping in restaurants in Napa Valley just an hour or so away.
The two brightest stars of the region, the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood, deserve a permanent place. The others included are the Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, Press in St. Helena and Solbar in Calistoga. And in Sonoma wine country, two restaurants join the list: Spoonbar in Healdsburg and The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa.
Not a bad showing for California.
If you want to see how the rest of the country is doing, Wine Enthusiast has put an interactive map on their website. Click on Northeast, South, Central or West to see that section of the country's best wine restaurants.
Here's a taste of New York City's list: Amali, A Voce Columbus, Betony, Charlie Bird, Daniel, Dovetail, Eleven Madison Park, Gotham Bar & Grill, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino, Momofuku Ma Peche, Narcissa, Oceana, Pearl & Ash, Per Se, Rouge Tomate, The NoMad, Toqueville and Villard Michel Richard. That's a cool 20 entries.
Who decided on the list anyway? The magazine’s introduction states, “our editors scoured the nation for unique wine programs. From an obsessive collection of Champagne in Chicago to an eatery in New York City where it's free to BYOB (as long as you're in a sharing mood) there's something to sate every wine lover."
So which one is that free BYOB restaurant? I clicked through the links to see if I could figure out which one it was. Along the way, I got a lesson in corkage policies in New York City. It's $50 a bottle at Rouge Tomate, Oceana and Narcissa; $55 per bottle at Toqueville; a more reasonable $35 at Dovetail and The NoMad — and $150 a bottle at Per Se!
Ah, here’s what I’ve been looking for, Amali: “The restaurant does not charge corkage so long as guests share a glass of wine that’s either unique or of exceptional quality.” That’s one of the more enlightened corkage policies I’ve ever encountered.
Just for science, let's check the L.A. restaurants' corkage fees — $30 at Animal and Hatfield's, $25 at A.O.C. Eminently fair.
Next year, let's hope to see more Los Angeles restaurants make the cut. My candidates? Spago, Bestia, Republique, Smoke Oil Salt — and that's just for starters.
Wine Enthusiast, are you listening?