Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Top 10 Restaurant WInes

Posted by EMark, Apr 21, 2015.

Lists are always fun.

I guess Wine & Spirits Magazine publishes an annual restaurant report.  I do not have a subscription, and, so, I have not seen the entire report.  However, here is a link to the Top 10 Restaurant Wines from their April 2015 issue.  The top 10 are:

  1. Jordan Vineyard and Winery
  2. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
  3. Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards
  4. Duckhorn Vineyards
  5. Cakebread Cellars
  6. Caymus Vineyards
  7. Silver Oak Wine Cellars
  8. Kistler Vineyards
  9. Veuve Clicquot
  10. Chateau Ste.Michelle

It is not apparent to me how this list was compiled.  I assume that these ten makers appear on the respondents' lists more often than any others.  

Miscellaneous thoughts of mine:

  • I guess that since this is a poll of U.S. restaurants I am not surprised that nine of the ten entries are domestic makers.
  • My guess is that the respondent restaurants were dominated by chains.  In fact, I am tempted to go so far as to suggest that they only restaurants that responded were Morton's, Ruth's Chris and Flemings.  These wines look exactly like what I would expect on a steak house wine list.
  • I am surprised to see a Champagne house on the list.  In the article they state "Sommeliers also noted that sparkling wine is beginning to be treated as a real wine instead of simply as a celebratory beverage."  OK, that might be, but why, then, would not some California maker be on the list?  I ask that only because all the others on the list were U.S. companies.  I am of the opinion that Veuve being on the list is indicative that sparkling wine in the U.S. is, in fact, still considered more of a "celebratory beverage."


Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 21, 2015.

Why champagne and not a Cali sparkler?  Well, because those are big label wines in wide distribution ordered by people who" love wine" but cannot be bothered to learn anything about it.  Specifically, they like a certain kind of wine that is advertised in golf magazines, airline in-flight magazines, and the Wall Street Journal. Whether they are in Tulsa, Newport Beach (the only place I have been to Flemings, BTW), or Miami, they want the experience to be "the best" but also the same.  No one ever went wrong ordering Artemis (unless they actually had to drink it).  Champagne itself is a brand, and Veuve is recognizable but not as pricey as Dom and, since it's just the warm up bottle and not taken too seriously, it doesn't have to cost three figures.

Too bad Veuve has started to suck almost as much as Moet.  I can remember liking it at one point.  I wonder sometimes if I came back to Cali sparkling as much because big French houses started degrading their entry cuvees as because more Cali wines upped their game.  Of course, there are still some good grower Champs at reasonable prices, but won't be seeing those at Mortons or the Palm or...

Sorry if I offended fans of any of these wines.  Please continue drinking them on your expense accounts and keeping the prices of my favorite wines within reach.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 21, 2015.

'Branding' as an industry could be said to have started in France, and it's no mistake that famous fashion brands and wine brands often now reside within the same conglomerate. No way can any CA sparkler compete with the cachet and marketing clout of Champagne.

Veuve's entry level bubblies have dropped considerably in quality starting roughly a couple of decades ago, so I'm completely in agreement with you there, Fox. Their prestige labels still are drinkable, though, even if their prices have gone up. VCP's used to be cheaper than Moet's offerings--and better, across the board. Said conglomerate has fostered an environment where every centimeter (and milliliter) of their offerings has to be milked to the max, though, leading to a situation where this consumer, too, has voted with his feet.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 21, 2015.

Agreed again that Veuve's prestige cuvee  is better than Dom--I haven't had a ton of Dom, but had a nice sampling at the cave in '88 and was... unimpressed.  For the money, I'll take the Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque.  Gimmicky bottle aside (even that I like) the juice inside is still quite good.  A current favorite grower Champ is Pierre Paillard.  For about the price of the NV from the bigger houses, you get something with a lot of character. 

But for $26 or so, you can get Schramsberg's Blanc de Noir, and there's nothing wrong with it, either.  In a bigger crowd, you can go with Scharffenberger or Roederer Estate (whose basic Champers ain't bad, either), and if you are doing a wedding, there's Cava.  But the expense account crowd?  Bubbly is still champagne, never mind the Cremant de Bourgogne and it's Freudian issues.

Reply by GregT, Apr 22, 2015.

I am surprised to see a Champagne house on the list..

Well it's Veuve Clicquot.

The others are kind of interesting too. Jordan is actually a decent wine and I'm surprised it made the list. Chat St. Michelle is on there because they actually produce good stuff for really low prices. Caymus, Silver Oak, and Kistler are oak-bombs that people seem to like a lot. Cakebread always targeted the restaurant market and Duckhorn is one of those inexpensive wines that people like.

Stag's Leap makes a lot of wine that finds itself in supermarkets.

Sonoma Cutrer is a little more surprising. There's a lot of it and it's all over, but I'm surprised that it's so popular in restaurants. Has to be "family-style" chains.

Reply by JonDerry, Apr 22, 2015.

I took this as wineries that have their own restaurants. Quite the spread at Jordan, though mediocre wine in my experience.

Reply by jtryka, Apr 23, 2015.

Interesting, I've been traveling a lot for work lately and seeing a variety of wine lists this list has a few surprises beyond the champagne.  First I was surprised by Jordan being first (assuming this is a ranked list), as I haven't seen them a lot, which is ok by me as I'm not a huge fan.  I'm not surprised by the big names that were on there, but more by those that didn't make it like Nickel & Nickel or Orin Swift.  Then again, I usually go off script at restaurants, I was recently at Barclay Prime in Philly and we ordered a very nice valpolicella ripasso that was a great wine for steak and it was half the price of most of the domestic cabs.

Reply by janeos, Apr 28, 2015.

Thank you for a list of restaurants)
I remember when we were in Prague - went there in a normal Italian pizzeria, wine and have been shocked - it was seems Chianti 2008! just gorgeous! here

Reply by duncan 906, May 4, 2015.

It would be interesting to repeat this exercise on this side of the pond as I and I  bet most other UK wine drinkers have never heard of half the wines on your list

Reply by EMark, May 4, 2015.

Yes, Duncan, I agree that from your perspective a survey of European, or, better, maybe, individual contries' restaurants would be much more interesting.  I am a little surpised that you haven't heard of, a least, a couple of the names on the list.They are all high-volume producers that are highly distributed--although, I guess what you are telling me is that they are only highly distributed in the United States.  All of them are, at least, respectable producers, and some of them have reached "very good-to-excellent" levels with some of their bottlings.

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