This Portland, Oregon, hangout specializes in the affordable and offbeat. “The Grape Depression,” for example, is a sampling of three big reds (including a Monastrell from Spain’s Yecla region) for just $10. The mostly $40-and-under list focuses on German and French labels that go with German-born chef Sandro Di Giovanni’s food: A tongue-in-cheek Swabian mac and cheese is really Emmentaler-covered spaetzle.
Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross—Washington, DC, politicos—decided to open a wine bar after working together on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid. Four years later, they launched Cork. Their Old World–dominated list includes a “Still Curious” section of lesser-known appellations, like the Loire’s Savennières. Small plates by chef Ron Tanaka, formerly of CityZen, are just as thoughtful: For instance, he cures trout overnight with lemon zest, juniper berries and cloves, then serves it with fennel and toasted hazelnuts.
Paul Pinnell, formerly the general manager at Nana, had two goals when he opened Dali last year in Dallas’s Arts District: a serious menu and a wine list with hard-to-find bottles at no more than double the wholesale cost. Chef Joel Harloff, another Nana alum, handles the first with dishes like pan-seared quail with goat-cheese polenta. Pinnell takes care of the second with an emphasis on wines from Southern California and Burgundy. To make his list even more accessible, he will open any bottle for a customer who commits to buying two glasses. He plans to debut a wine shop across the street.
© Brian Kennedy
To decorate her tiny Italian wine bar, New York City chef Jody Williams sets out baskets of nuts in the shell. “When I’m working I hear nonstop cracking,” she says. That’s not the only food she offers: There’s also crostini with walnut pesto and steamed eggs with bottarga. (Williams cooks the eggs using her espresso maker’s steam wand.) Many of her whites are from Alto Adige, but her current wine obsession is a Piedmont red: the 2003 Pecoranera Tenuta Grillo. “It’s a rough, rustic Old World wine,” she says.
“Stunning” is how Mina Group wine director Rajat Parr immodestly describes the wines at RN74, in San Francisco. His list may just live up to this boast. It ranges from trophy wines like an 1870 Château Lafite Rothschild to $40-and-under bottles like the 2006 Marcel Lapierre Morgon. Former French Laundry sous-chef Jason Berthold’s small-plates menu includes an equally stunning take on traditional carbonara—with hand-cut egg pasta, Santa Barbara sea urchin, grilled bacon and peas.