With our second annual Best New Restaurant Wine List Awards, FOOD & WINE celebrates the men and women who have made their restaurants key destinations for wine lovers. We pored over hundreds of lists from restaurants opened in 1999 to find the most creative, menu-appropriate and fairly priced examples in 10 cities across the country. Not only do these lists represent sound buying decisions made at a time when wine prices have reached record levels but they also reflect many up-to-the-minute drinking trends: There are more offerings of half bottles and wines by the glass, and there is a range of selections from once unfamiliar growing districts, such as Walla Walla in Washington State, Austria's Wachau Valley and the Paarl region of South Africa.ABACUS Dallas
"We feature a lot of sold-in-restaurant-only wines, which means that they are very, very allocated, and when they're gone, they're gone," says Abacus manager Matthew Scott. Chosen by Scott, owner Robert Hoffman and chef Kent Rathbun, the list is heavily weighted toward selections from California, since they are the most popular with Abacus's customers. Scott's favorite is the ZD Abacus ($395). "It's the best California wine on our list," he says, without hesitating, of this blend of ZD's reserve Cabernets from 1992 to 1998. "And," he adds, "the name is a nice coincidence." But there are numerous wines in the $25 to $45 range (although you can also opt for the stellar 1989 Château Haut-Brion at $1,500) and enough variety to complement Rathbun's globally inspired cooking, which includes everything from Victoria Lake perch to Peking duck. The restaurant's signature dish, John Dory, a flaky white fish from New Zealand, encrusted in bread crumbs and served with roasted-garlic orzo and a charred-tomato sauce, is a good match with the 1998 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay.
1997 Bonterra Viognier ($45). Made from organic fruit, with the richness and fruity sweetness to stand up to much of Abacus's food.