With wine’s snob appeal on the wane, more and more people are enjoying the cult of the grape and its marriage with food without the attendant anxiety over their “ignorance” about the manifold subtleties of varietals. Wine is being demystified. And the fact is that a great way to try new wines without prying the stitching out of your wallet and buying a whole bottle is to sample them by the glass at a restaurant or bar.
In Nashville, we are blessed with a number of very good wine-by-the-glass lists that challenge oenophiles to break free from their routines and offer newcomers an opportunity to learn more about wine quickly and pleasurably. We took a look at many of those lists and came up with our own Top 5 locally. Restaurants were rated on the following criteria:
♦ number of list offerings (are there a lot of wines to choose from?)
♦ variety within varietals (are the different types of wine well represented?)
♦ overall quality of the list (is what they have good?)
♦ surprise element (are there wines that intrigue or are unexpected?)
♦ proper in-house storage (is there climate control or do they store the bottles in boxes in the back closet near the dishwasher?)
♦ presentation (do the servers/bartenders know their stuff and is glassware decent?)
♦ standard pour (how much do they give you for that $11 price tag?)
Fleming’s Steak HouseFleming’s emerged as the two-ton, undeniable gorilla in the wine by the glass category. More than 100 selections are available and from selection to quality to service, the restaurant does everything right. The cellar is impeccable and in full view, the pours are standardized by using a small carafe as intermediary between the bottle and your glass, and they have some very good wines in stock. Even the stemware was close enough to pass for Reidel.
Wild BoarWhile many glasses and bottles here are beyond the reach of entire socio-economic classes, if you’re looking for that rare, extraordinary sip, The Wild Boar most likely has it. The list is a tome and then some, requiring patience and a fair amount of knowledge. Given enough information about what you like and are willing to pay, the sommelier should steer you to the right glass.
Margot Café & BarWith close to 30 wines available in single pours, Margot’s has assembled one of the more interesting small lists in town. Variety is the key here, and the restaurant seems to delight in finding wines that are both affordable and not seen everywhere else in town. Partner Jay Frein also does a nice job pairing the selections with Margot’s more rustic palate. A weaker list would lose that battle of wills.
Sunset GrillGood wine lists don’t happen overnight. They require patience, knowledge, savvy and a pretty tremendous investment to be tied up in product that’s supposed to sit there and gather dust. Randy Rayburn’s lists have staying power while remaining remarkably current. If you saw something domestic, especially Californian, touted in Wine Spectator, there’s a good chance that it will show up on the list. Our primary complaint was the consistently small pours we received.
Bound’rySince opening in the mid-’90s, Bound’ry set out to establish a breadth of selection in stocking its bar. We cut our list off at this point, because after a certain point, many lists started to look like repeat offenders, and frankly, rather corporate. Bound’ry, true to its name, seems to just skirt that borderline, erring on the side of quality.