Behind the great wine lists of the world are great stories: of love, ambition, obstacles overcome. This is especially true of the eight restaurants that have earned Wine Spectator’s Grand Award—the world’s highest honor for a restaurant wine program—for the first time in 2019, bringing the total number of current Grand Award winners to 100.
Impressive milestones and memorable tales accompany the Grand Award class of 2019, a group that contains both new and familiar faces:
• The luxurious Alfredo di Roma Mexico, one of the best Italian kitchens in Mexico City, has become the first Grand Award winner in Mexico.
• Fiola in Washington, D.C.— the only Grand Award winner in the U.S. capital—grew from a trattoria-style restaurant to a fine-dining institution, on the spot where the husband-and-wife owners first met and fell in love.
• Despite being accessible only by cable car, the Griggeler Stuba in Lech am Arlberg, Austria, built a wine cellar of 60,000 bottles, including international benchmarks and a masterful collection of the country’s top producers.
• Restaurateur Tilman Fertitta created the crown jewel of his empire with Mastro’s Steakhouse at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston, building a wine destination with more than 3,500 selections in less than two years.
• With its 3,700 wine selections, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in downtown Houston brought in the third Grand Award for owners Harris and Chris Pappas, following in the steps of two other Texas venues.
• Major Food Group pulled off a high-stakes relaunch of the Pool in the storied Four Seasons Restaurant space, redefining it with extravagant decor, chef Rich Torrisi’s modern menu and a wine list that’s 3,100 labels deep.
• Milan’s Ristorante Cracco became the Fashion Capital’s only Grand Award winner, a dazzling but calm oasis above the city’s bustling shopping area, with a list packed with unicorn wines.
• Vantre in Paris redefined the modern wine bar, bringing Grand Award pedigree to a laid-back concept, with a wine program that marries classic blue chips and offbeat offerings and covers all price points.
• The Grand Award is presented to restaurants that show uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs, typically offering 1,000 or more selections and the highest level of service. (Learn more about the awards criteria.)
“We have been working toward this moment since 2011, when we opened Fiola with a one-page wine list featuring 60 selections,” said Casper Rice, corporate wine director of chef Fabio Trabocchi’s restaurants. “We are proud that today Fiola’s list is at the pinnacle of wine programs in the U.S.”
Wine Spectator’s Grand Award dates to 1981 when, in an effort to encourage excellence in wine programs, the magazine honored 13 restaurants with exceptional lists. Over the years, wine became a more integral part of American dining culture; as the quality of wine lists improved around the world, the Restaurant Awards Program grew. Today it recognizes more than 3,750 restaurants at three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and, at the top, the Grand Award.
Detailed profiles of the eight new Grand Award winners can be found in the Grand Awards Class of 2019, part of Restaurants.WineSpectator.com.
The full list of 2019 Restaurant Award winners will be available on the website July 1, when the free, searchable database will be updated with all of the year’s honorees. In addition, the website features an extensive collection of articles, including Q&As with leading sommeliers, chefs and restaurateurs, roundups of where to drink well and restaurant-related news.
All award winners will be featured in the Aug. 31 issue of Wine Spectator (available on newsstands July 16), which, along with the full profiles of the new Grand Award winners, also includes an overview of wine-list trends.