2013 Wine Lover’s Guide

It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or an expert, Fort Worth, Texas magazine’s Wine Lover’s Guide covers everything from the best wine lists in town and cool wine gadgets to a local wine tasting event and a grape-to-glass explanation.
So pour yourself a glass, sit back and enjoy the read.

 

2013 Wine List Awards

Sip Sip, Hooray! The Fort Worth area is not all about being trendy or cosmopolitan, but when it comes to wine, these restaurant wine lists would be winners in any city.

by Renie Steves

No matter what your dining mood, from elegant or cozy to trendy or casual, these wine lists were selected from the many restaurants that applied. Our judges, a sommelier, wine seller, wine consultant and wine journalist, chose 10 as having Superior wine lists with the remaining places receiving Awards for Excellence or as Choice.

Wine lists were and are designed to show the character and make a personal statement about the restaurant. Bigger does not necessarily mean better, but ample choices in tastes and prices need to be offered. Organization is key. In the 80s, fine dining restaurants had large, thick, pretentious, leather-bound lists. Today many have progressed to shortening and simplifying the list to ‘whites’ and ‘reds’ or categorizing by varietal. The latest innovation is easily updated digital lists on tablets.

Wine training of the staff pays off for all concerned, perhaps more than in any other phase of restaurant operation. Sales escalate and everybody wins. Although there are exceptions to these titles, wine directors/sommeliers work in restaurants. Whether officially certified or not, wine specialists at these restaurants are very well-versed and dedicated to providing detailed training to wait staff and extraordinary dining for customers searching for the perfect food and wine match.

Enthusiasm for wine is infectious. It spreads through the restaurant, and the passion is felt by customers.


Superior Award (highest level): Typically offers more than 500 selections; features a broad range of top producers and mature vintages; excellent harmony with food menu; superior organization, presentation and wine service.

Award of Excellence: Typically offers 200 or more wines; vintage depth; range of several winegrowing regions; superior presentation.
Choice Award: Offers at least 50 wines; well-chosen selection of quality producers; adequate match to the food menu in both price and style.


Bob’s Steak & Chop House 
1300 Houston St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102 817.350.4100
bobs-steakandchop.com

Wine Strengths: Exclusive Cabernet Sauvignons; International categories
Pricing: $35 - $750
Bottles: 3,000
Wine Director/Sommelier: Jordan Dickey
Cuisine: Steak House
Entrees: $26 - $55
Jordan Dickey loves his job. As sommelier/wine director at Bob’s Steak & Chop House in the Omni Hotel, he orders wine once a week and gets to reprint the wine list every two weeks. When asked, “Why do you love that?” Dickey said, “Of the 10 Bob’s restaurants, seven are in Texas, and Texas is No. 2 in the consumption of wine in the states. We source more than our Phoenix restaurant.”
   Business is a little slower in the summer, so his inventory went from 3,000 bottles to 2,963 in August. Dickey said, “That is already picking up, and we are in the process of adding two sections to the wine list: Spain and South Africa.”
   The website is universal to all Bob’s Steak & Chop House restaurants except for location hours and directions. If you want to see the wine list before taking guests to dinner, call and Dickey will email it to you.
   Glass windows allow the guests to see inside the humidity and temperature-controlled cellar. This classic American steakhouse wine list features varietal categories with an exclusive California Cabernet Sauvignon area, and separate sections for France, Italy, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Menu items are also classic American steakhouse -- beef, veal, lamb, duck and pork -- with a number of seafood appetizers and entrees.
   Dine at the bar and try one of 35 wines by the glass available between $7 and $23. The pour is 8 ounces, 2 ounces more than the standard. If the selection is adventuresome, ask for a taste before you commit.

Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine 
4529 Bryant Irvin Road
Fort Worth, Texas 76109
817.738.5489
bonnellstexas.com

Wine Strengths: Texas wines; rare wines; large format bottles
Pricing: $24 - $1,200 (excluding large format bottles)
Bottles: 2,000
Wine Director/Sommelier: Jon Bonnell
Cuisine: Texas and Southwestern
Entrees: $22 - $50
Jon Bonnell’s wine philosophy is to build a list to pair with his menu. This means Texas foods prepared with classic, and often, Texas technique. Appetizers such as Crispy Diamond H Ranch Quail Legs, Texas Shrimp and Creamy Grits, and Oysters Texasfeller call for one of many offerings of a crisp, dry or medium-bodied white wine. Wines are divided by varietal in classic organization with a couple of old world French, Italian and German wines in the mix. Converted from an old bank vault, the cellar now holds 2,000 bottles at 55 degrees.
   Entrees span Texas with Pepper Crusted Buffalo Tenderloin and Cocoa-Rubbed All Natural Filet. Many a fine pairing exists on the “Trophy Hunter’s” Private Reserve List of rare wines. If you have a large group, choose from the large format bottles or more than 165 reds in the regular wine list. Each of the varietal and by-the-country categories begins with the least expensive wine. If you know your price range, it is a much faster read.
   A classic suggestion when choosing a wine is to match cuisine and wine by region — you can’t go wrong. Bonnell gives us that choice with his many Texas inspired dishes and 12 Texas wines by the bottle, far more than any of these Fort Worth area restaurants. Texas wines are denoted on the list with a star.

Café Modern 
3200 Darnell St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
817.738.9215
themodern.org

The Capital Grille 
800 Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.348.9200
thecapitalgrille.com

Cattlemen's Fort Worth Steak House
2458 North Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76164
817.624.3945
cattlemenssteakhouse.com

The Classic at Roanoke
504 North Oak St.
Roanoke, Texas 76262
817.430.8185
theclassiccafe.com

Daddy Jack's Lobster and Chowder
353 Throckmorton St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.332.2477
daddyjacks.org

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House
812 Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.877.3999
delfriscos.com

Wine Strengths: Wines from Napa to Argentina to France and exotics from Corsica to Uruguay
Pricing: $29 - $12,000
Bottles: 9,000; Selections: 1,600
Wine Director: Brian Pack
Cuisine: Steak and seafood
Entrees: $29 - $53
Del Frisco’s follows an important principle in restaurant wine sales: A wine list is the ultimate sales tool. It only works as well as the people that present it to the diner. They do this well.
   Del Frisco’s pays for any staff member – managers, chefs, servers, bartenders, hostesses – who wish to get certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. The full program is an intense four-level education and examination process. Locally, this program is driven by the Texas Sommelier Conference (“TEXSOM”).
   This year, 58 people in Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group (11 from Fort Worth) studied from January until May for the Level I test. The five-month period to prepare for the examination requires a one-hour training session every Saturday, two to three professional tastings per week, and arduous independent studying. Since all 11 students this year passed the certification, there are currently 20 Level I sommeliers on staff at Del Frisco’s Fort Worth. This exceptional training translates into highly successful wine sales – 95 percent of all tables order wine. 
   This unparalleled wine training on the restaurant’s immense wine list coupled with Executive Chef Anthony Felli’s recent win as Fort Worth, Texas magazine’s Top Chef make Del Frisco’s experience superior.
   Del Frisco’s philosophy is to provide guests with unique, world-class wines at all price levels. Of the 1,600 selections, 250 are under $70. Brian Pack, wine director/sommelier, said, “I want wines that are indigenous varietals and wines that are manipulated as little as possible by the winemaker.”

Ellerbe Fine Foods
1501 West Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth, Texas 76104
817.926.3663
ellerbefinefoods.com

Wine Strengths: Boutique and allocated selections
Pricing: Basic list $32 - $135; Reserve list $70 - $850
Bottles: 2,200; Selections: 350
Wine Director/Sommelier: Richard King
Cuisine: American
Entrees: $21 - $29
Ellerbe’s added fine dining to Magnolia Avenue when Richard King and Molly McCook repurposed a 1920s gas station. National notoriety soon came as Chef Molly emphasized her local farm-to-table seasonal recipes. Richard, general manager and wine director, purchased boutique and highly allocated wines to complement the menu. 
   And what a collection he has assembled — 350 selections for a total of 2,200 bottles. Selections rotate on and off the wine list for ease of reading and to keep continuity with the menu. The regular wine list of 46 selections has two simple sections — whites and reds — with each reading from light bodied to heavy. Fifteen of these are by the glass. A second page, the reserve list, offers 47 choices from Antinori Chardonnay to Harlan Estate Cabernet. Guests seeking other cult Napa Cabernet Sauvignons or a Burgundy from a favorite region should ask. They are likely to be available. Champagne and Magnum Lists are available on request.
   Every three months, the entire staff goes through the Master Sommelier regime. Tasting is blind. On each wine, one person speaks four minutes, and then there is group discussion for five minutes. Staff is taught to first offer Champagne to freshen the palate, and as Richard says, “it also goes well with salad.”
   There is no wine cellar, but all wines are stored in wine racks, cabinets or temperature controlled units. The majority of Ellerbe’s wines are available for retail purchase at generally half the price of the wine on the list, which is quite unique.

Ferré Ristorante and Bar
215 East 4th St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.332.0033
ferrerestaurant.com

Grace
777 Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.877.3388
gracefortworth.com

Wine Strengths: France, Italy, Pacific Northwest, California, Older wines
Pricing: $27 - $1500 (not including large format bottles)
Bottles: 4,100; Selections: 950
Sommeliers: Lioneel V. Penacerrada and Jennifer Kornblum
Cuisine: Modern American Classics
Entrees: $26 - $49
Grace embellishes downtown Fort Worth in an elegantly contemporary fashion. Adam Jones knows hospitality and puts it in action, seeing to every detail in the house. When his wife, Caroline Grace Jones, is in her namesake restaurant, her gracious personality and smile light up the room.
   Executive Chef Blaine Staniford’s expertise in creating menus to pair with wines of outstanding winemakers is exceptional. If practice makes perfect, he and sommeliers Lioneel Penacerrada and Jennifer Kornblum make their own food and wine symphony.
The philosophy of Grace’s beverage program is: Be accessible, approachable, innovative and fun. It works. Kornblum says, “Seventy percent of guests order wine, 50 to 60 percent of those order wine by the glass.” Grace offers 33 wines by the glass and an additional 29 dessert wines, sherries, fortified wines and grappa. Every page of the list has a box noting “Highly Recommended” wines.
   The old world traditional fine wines from Burgundy, Rhone, Piedmont and Tuscany have a loyal following. If you want a cutting-edge, modern wine, it’s there too. These experienced sommeliers will help match what your palate desires with the meal while staying in harmony with your wallet.
   Special events are held at the bar several nights a week — from a celebrity bartender for a community fundraiser, to Women and Wine every Wednesday. Bubbles are half price every afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. Guests can drop in straight from work, enjoy the patio, select a glass of wine, and order from a separate menu for bar snacks.

J.R.’s Steakhouse
5400 Highway 121
Colleyville, Texas 76034
817.355.1414

jrssteaks.com

Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse
3305 E. Highway 114
Southlake, Texas 76092
817.410.2221
kirbyssteakhouse.com

Wine Strengths: Full-bodied Domestic Reds; Vertical Selections
Pricing: $30 - $1,400
Bottles: More than 3,000; Selections: 400+
Wine Director/Sommelier: Thomas Alexander
Cuisine: Steakhouse
Entrees: $17.95 - $56.95
Walk into Kirby’s in Southlake and nostalgia reigns. A large horizontal portrait of James Dean in Western attire, lying in the grass, propped up on his elbow is above the glass-enclosed, softly lit, 22-foot-long wine cellar. More than 1,100 of the 3,000 plus bottles in Kirby’s inventory are displayed. The scene makes your mouth water.
   Only 10 minutes from DFW International Airport, Kirby’s offers a 14-person complimentary shuttle service to all surrounding hotels. A longer-than-expected layover can be pleasant with Happy Hour beginning at 4:30 p.m. followed by dinner after 5 p.m. If it’s Sunday, all bottles of wines $200 and less are half-price, so take friends.
   No question about the wine and food matching well. Only prime meat is served, cooked to perfection, and just as many seafood dishes as meat make the menu more versatile than many steak houses. The wine list accommodates every desire, although the emphasis is on full-bodied domestic reds. Sommelier Selections are reasonably priced, while Captain’s List or wines that age, offer upper-end selections. Worldly red and whites are from 10 countries.
   More than 50 wines by the glass including white and red, bubbles, dessert, port and sherry are available. Sadly, none of them are from Texas.
   A definite uniqueness is the Vertical Selections from three consecutive vintages priced for all three bottles. Eight selections including Banfi, Corison, Dominus, Silver Oak, Lamborn, Quintessa, Paradigm and Robert Mondavi are offered, ranging in price from $460 to $805.

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro
2406 N. Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76164
817.740.8810
lonesomedovebistro.com

Wine Strengths: California, Washington, Oregon, Australia
Pricing: $39 - $900 (with two at $1,400)
Bottles: More than 2,000
Wine Director/Sommelier: Kyle Moore
Cuisine: Wild Game, Urban Western
Entrees: $20 - $41
Lonesome Dove in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards proves you can’t get a great restaurant down. It is scheduled to be reopened by press time after a late summer fire. Manager Kyle Moore promised diners would experience the same atmosphere, unique Western food, and new world wine list. Opened in 2000, much of what is experienced at Lonesome Dove has been influenced by owners Tim and Emilie Love’s trip to Australia in their early marriage.
   Although Lonesome Dove offers a wine list with a balance of small production and boutique producers, extremely well-known producers such as Penfolds, Trefethen, Plumpjack, and Caymus are represented. Mature vintages are offered along with current releases. The lengthy Pinot Noir section from California, Oregon and New Zealand is impressive. You can spend more, but there are 13 choices of Pinot between $50 and $70. 
   If foreigners are visiting, don’t miss the chance to watch them read the menu - Wild Boar Ribs, Rabbit-Rattlesnake Sausage, or Rocky Mountain Elk Loin. Their eyes open wide! If parties don’t agree on a bottle of wine, of the 27 offered by the glass, many have great versatility from Fess Parker (who played Daniel Boone) Riesling ($8) to Simi Cabernet Sauvignon ($14).
   The wine cellar is optimum, set in a cave-like atmosphere with low light, cool conditions and an old rustic wood and pebble floor. Most of the cellar was hand dug to make room for wine racks and white wine coolers. Such dedication is characteristic of the ongoing marriage of historical with contemporary at Lonesome Dove.

Michaels Cuisine
3413 West 7th St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
817.877.3413
michaelscuisine.com

Piccolo Mondo Italian Restaurant
829 East Lamar Blvd.
Arlington, Texas 76011
817.265.9174
piccolomondo.com

Reata Restaurant
310 Houston St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.336.1009
reata.net

Wine Strengths: New World wines
Pricing: $41 - $295
Bottles: 2,750
Wine Director/Sommelier: Craig Vieck
Cuisine: Texas
Entrees: $36 - $49
Reata, the downtown Fort Worth icon, definitely screamed “Texas” from the day it was born. The restaurant symbolizes the strength, spirit and excitement of the fabled days of the wide, wild West while showcasing the heritage of the 1957 classic movie Giant.
   New World wines from California, South America and Australia are spot-on with the menu of legendary Texas cuisine. Whether pairing the famous Tenderloin Tamales with Merlot or the Jalapeño and Cilantro Soup with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, choices are abundant.
   Wines by the glass (29 selections) are offered from Texas, California, Oregon, Argentina, Italy and Portugal. Multiple pricing tiers will suit any budget.
   The basement cellar houses 2,750 bottles in a large temperature-controlled room with racks running floor to ceiling. For easy access, it is organized in the order the wine appears on the list. An artist recreated the panoramic view from Reata’s original 35th floor location on the walls of a private dining room with seating for 60.
   The fourth floor has the rooftop bar, cocktail and dining area. Unwind at this urban oasis while watching the bustle in Sundance Square. When Reata moved in 2002, the restaurant kept the architecture intact by repurposing the Caravan of Dreams’ bubble with private dining for 100.
   When staff members are hired, they have an extensive training program that continues every Friday afternoon with a wine class for servers, food runners and hosts. For the past seven years, a group of servers has been sent to Napa every spring.

Revolver Taco Lounge
2822 West 7th St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
817.820.0122
revolvertacolounge.com

Ruth's Chris Steak House
813 Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.348.0080
ruthschris.com

Silver Fox Steakhouse
1651 South University Drive
Fort Worth, Texas 76109
817.332.9060
silverfoxsteakhouse.com

Six 10 Grille
610 Main St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.332.0100
theashtonhotel.com

Texas de Brazil
101 Houston St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
817.882.9500
texasdebrazil.com

Waters Coastal Cuisine
2901 Crockett St.
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
817.984.1110
waterstexas.com

Wine Strengths: Seafood friendly wines; Texas wines
Pricing: $30 - $630
Bottles: 4,000
Wine Director/Sommelier: Jon Bonnell
Cuisine: Seafood
Entrees: $19 - $48
Waters’ wine list is not only the most contemporary one in the Fort Worth area, but the best-designed one as well. It’s not intimidating for a novice and is a joy for an oenophile.
   Additional kudos to Jon Bonnell and General Manager John Saleebey for how the wine list is constructed (a bonus is the large print). It is simple, straightforward and extremely versatile, with abundant wines that pair with seafood. Organized with the least expensive at the top of each varietal category, the list is easy to navigate.
   One judge particularly liked the designation of unoaked and oaked Chardonnays and the broad offering of Rosés. “The Rosé Champagnes are always great with a choice of oysters.” Two sections titled Unique Whites and Other Reds and Red Blends are personal favorites. No matter the list, if it offers sections for unique and blended wines, that’s where to go to explore. Albarino, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier, Tempranillo, Carignane, and Garnacha highlighted the adventuresome curiosity of the judges.
Waters offers several of these different varietals among the 20 by-the-glass wines, well-priced from $9 - $15. 
   “Yes, there are some big, heavy cabs,” said Jon, “although I like to build a list that first and foremost pairs well with my menu. After selecting wines in different price levels and styles, I tend to seek out small, independent wineries with exceptional quality. When a winemaker takes the time to craft something artisanal and puts in the effort to work with nature, I’m likely to add it to the list.”

The Wild Mushroom
1917 Martin Drive
Weatherford, Texas 76086
817.599.4935
thewildmushroomrestaurant.com

Winewood
1265 South Main St.
Grapevine, Texas  76051
817.421.0200
thewinewood.com

Winslow's Wine Cafe
4101 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
817.731.6515
winslowswine.com

Wildwood Grill
2700 E. Southlake Blvd.
Southlake, Texas 76092
817.748.2100
wildwoodsouthlake.com

Strengths: California and Washington
Pricing: $25 - $199
Bottles: 600
Wine Director/Sommelier: Brian Herman
Cuisine: Texas
Entrees: $13 - $30
Wildwood Grill is a Southlake gem. Families enjoy the covered patio with TV and a wood burning fireplace. Inside is cozy with a comfortable bar.
   Quality for value in the wine list is a priority. Brian Herman, GM and sommelier, seeks wines to match the Texas-style menu of wood-fired cuisine from steak tacos, to a coffee rub on many cuts of beef, or Shiner Bock Fish and Chips. Herman said, “One out of two tables has wine with dinner. We feature 80 selections that deliver the absolute best values in town.”
   A few selections of library, vertical choices and rare bottles are available off the list. Mark-ups often seem closer to retail than to traditional restaurant mark-ups. Herman commented, “This is because of our long-standing relationships with distributors and our willingness to pass our finds and deals to the guests.”
   Special event offerings are consistent. Sunday and Monday, 25 wines from the list are offered for $25, a substantial savings. Texas Brennan Viognier, normally $37, was on the $25 list. Those same days, a three-course menu (including a 6-ounce tenderloin) is offered for $25. Buy a bottle of wine on Tuesday and get a free cheese platter. On Thursdays, Herman opens Magnum and 3-liter bottles for tableside service by the glass. Pair these events with a wine club, monthly come-and-go tastings and quarterly wine dinners. That’s a complete wine program!
   Last year Wildwood Grill participated in 20 charitable events, supplying free food and drink. They are passionate about community involvement.

 

Texas Wines
We have a dream that involves help from a lot of vino-loving people. Let’s encourage Fort Worth dining establishments to take the lead on offering Texas wines. Tourists will buy Texas wines because they are curious, while locals buy them because the price is right. The choice is huge — there are 275 wineries in Texas. Texas winemakers have finally figured out what varietals thrive in our climate and terroir...Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Viognier.
   Restaurants, with minimal investment, could offer one white and one red by the glass. Wine lovers thirst for suggestions, so place an unopened bottle of each on the bar as a showpiece. Spread the wealth and change the winery and varietals often.
   If customers don’t see a Texas wine on the list, ask for one. In turn, if the winery has an adequate amount of product, they should get a distributor or have a self-distribution system. To make this happen, wineries, distributors and restaurants have to work together toward the goal of increasing visibility of Texas wines. As one judge said, “Restaurants need to step up to the plate for Texas wines.”
   National publications are laying groundwork to make this easier. In 2012 AARP listed Texas Hill Country as the No. 1 wine destination outside of California. This year Redbook named Texas Hill Country as one of the top 10 wine destinations in America.
   Kudos to Bonnell’s for having 12 Texas wines on its list! Capital Grille Fort Worth is planning a Texas section with a choice of five selections on its list. Surprisingly, only half the restaurants in this article have one or more Texas wine offerings.
   Many Fort Worth area restaurants scream “Texas” in decor and menu. Pairing Texas wine with dinner would make the circle complete.


To read about Times Ten Cellars is a full-fledged grape-to-glass operation CLICK HERE.

To see some cool wind gadgets and gizmos CLICK HERE.

For a Novice's Guide to Wine CLICK HERE.

To see what a panel of local wine aficionados think CLICK HERE.