Great wine by the glass is more than being offered a glass of wine in a restaurant. The best places, regardless of size or decor, offer you an entire dining experience. Seek them out, and you will be happy you did.
To get you started, I have chosen a handful of restaurants that vary in style and cuisine, but they all share one thing in common — brilliant ongoing wine by the glass programs.
Strawberry Street Café
421 Strawberry St.
When I mentioned to Manager Adam Williams that his wine by the glass program, which is 20 years old, was one of Richmond’s longest-running, he was shocked. “I didn’t know that,” he said. His secret: “We offer the new and the interesting, at reasonable prices. We are a casual dining restaurant.” He was being modest. His staff is consistently trained in their food and wine pairings. His selection is a worldwide wine tour that features the dornfelder grape, a luscious German sleeper. Cape Indaba Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa is ideal for this weather. His newest treat is the Gabriele Rausse Cabernet Sauvignon from Charlottesville — a winery the size of their bathtub salad bar.
The Berkeley Hotel
12th and Cary St.
Carol Colby, food and beverage manager sums it all up: “Our selections are chosen for value, food pairing, quaffability and uniqueness. Softer wines for the bar guest; the more food-friendly wines are used to pair with our chef’s tasting menu. The more quirky wines are a more interesting option.” Little did you know that when ordering a glass of wine you can get soft, food-friendly or quirky. Plus, there is always a person on hand to guide you through it all.
Among the Berkeley’s cast of wines is a gruner veltliner, a perfect wine from Austria for the summer. Manfred Breit Riesling is the quaffer and A-Mano Primitivo the exotic Italian red.
The Jefferson Hotel
101 W. Franklin St.
Sommelier Brodie Dollinger describes the scene: “As one walks up the grand staircase of the Jefferson Hotel and approaches the Lemaire Restaurant, the scene is set for a special evening. Entering the marble-columned restaurant, one is greeted by live jazz piano music, further adding to the anticipation of something extraordinary.” Man, I am tired already, and this cummerbund is killing me. To top it off, there are those two wines that make the experience really memorable: Eroica by Dr. Loosen, a Northwest Riesling named after a piece by Beethoven. And, the Chateau de la Coste, Margaux, from the scarcely rivaled 2000 vintage. These two wines can sum up an entire wine by the glass program because the anticipation matches the conclusion.
6004 W. Broad St.
There is always a wine by the glass sleeper out there, and this is it. I asked An Bui of Mekong how he chooses his wines. “It is my taste,” he says. “I know what I am looking for with my food.” That is for sure. Theirs is a small list featuring light, fruity, no-oaked wines from Alsace, Washington state and New Zealand that pair perfectly with their Vietnamese food. The Spy Valley Gewurztraminer, New Zealand, paired with Mekong’s sweet and sour soup is thrilling. Likewise, the SeebrichRiesling Spatlese from Germany with its hint of both peaches and minerals is fantastic paired with their dishes. S
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