Burlington, Vermont: Bluebird Tavern
"We're looking for the underdogs of wine," says general manager Laura Wade. For a dinner at Bluebird Tavern last spring, she collaborated with her husband, Bluebird chef Aaron Josinsky, to feature the little-known Austrian Steininger family, who make both still and sparkling versions of three different grapes: Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt. Josinsky paired the crisp wines with an assortment of house-made charcuterie, including Tuscan winemaker's salami made with Sangiovese, coppa (pork shoulder) and ham-and-parsley terrine.
Washington, DC: Dickson Wine Bar
Unlike most wine bars, the house specialties at Dickson are Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches (chef James Claudio is half-Vietnamese); the one filled with grilled Berkshire pork belly is especially good. Still, like most wine bar menus, Dickson's devotes space to cheeses and charcuterie, like house-cured duck prosciutto. The concise wine list was created by sommelier Jarad Slipp of DC's elegant CityZen, who marks every selection with a little o (organic) or b (biodynamic). Alsace's 2007 Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg and Argentina's 2007 Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir each get a b. Even sangrias, like the strawberry-and-blueberry-studded white-wine version, have an o.
Seattle: The Corson Building
"The Corson has the kind of list where you can close your eyes, pick a wine and know it will be great," says Betts & Scholl's winemaker Richard Betts. Sommelier Marc Papineau leans toward Old World wines, like the 2007 Domaine Oratoire Saint Martin. Matthew Dillon (an F&W Best New Chef 2007) does the cooking, and his fantastic prix fixe suppers might include olive oilpoached tuna. Recently, Dillon and Papineau also teamed up on the wine bar and shop Bar Ferdinand.
Austin, Texas: Paggi House
When Chris McFall took over the wine program at this historic spot in 2009, the list had only a few Burgundies. Now they're the focal point: There's a selection from almost every region and village in Burgundy. His favorite pairing with chef Shane Stark's very seasonal menu: 2007 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1st Cru and sweet-tea-brined duck breast.
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Corez
At this pared-down wine bar, there are notes on every wine on the menu. The Ca' di Pietra Prosecco Rosé is light, pretty and "almost daffy." It's tasty with the crispy whitefish sandwich.
NYC's New Wine Haunts
It's a great time to drink everything from superfunky whites to reds inspired by Robert De Niro.
"I defy you to find a wine list like ours," says co-owner Paul Grieco. His 40-plus-page book, printed on graph paper, includes an ode to Tribeca pioneer Robert De Niro. There's a menu page listing Marco Canora's wine-friendly dishes, like fried sage-wrapped lamb sausage, and a page for what Grieco calls "the greatest Italian wine ever made": 1985 Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido ($1,900).
At Anfora, Joe Campanale obsesses over anfora wines (aged in clay containers, which add an appealingly funky flavor). His list covers more than 20 producers, including Sicily's Frank Cornelissen. Campanale loves Cornelissen's peppery 2008 Contadino 6 with chef Gabe Thompson's wonderful lamb-ragù sliders.
To encourage sampling from its outstanding wine collection, Bar Henry ingeniously offers guests half of any bottle on the 150-label "market list" for half the price. The fruity 2005 Señorio de Sarràa Viñedo No. 7 from Spain is $38 (or $19 for 375 ml); it's great with the caramelized-onion-topped Hamburger Henry.
Two New Wine Oases
One is surrounded by vineyards; the other, old warehouses made into galleries.
1. Sicily: La Foresteria
Planeta winery has just opened a 14-room hotel and cooking school.
2. Portland, Oregon: Irving Street Kitchen
For his Pearl District spot, co-owner Doug Washington designed a tap system to serve 10 wines from Oregon and Washington.