We asked local experts for their favorite local wine lists. Here are their picks.
The Green Room, Hotel du Pont
The grande dame of Wilmington has spruced up her list to keep up with the kids. Food and beverage director Thomas Hannum keeps the wines rooted in France and California to complement the French-inspired cuisine, but has ventured into New Zealand, Australia and Chile. Executive sous chef Patrick D’Amico suggests teaming the wild rockfish and caramelized pear with the 2005 Cakebread Cellar Chardonnay. $54
Harry’s Savoy Grill
With big steaks must come big wines, so this North Wilmington classic is well aware of the demands its menu places on the list. Naturally, Cabernets are “the big gun,” says manager Kelly O’Hanlon, but beverage director Ann Hood strives to offer a broad selection of varietals. Want a super-big Tuscan to go with that prime rib? Try Sassicaia. $215
Domaine Hudson Wine Bar & Eatery
At Tom Hudson’s oenophile oasis in Wilmington, an expansive list guarantees you’ve got something new to try with tasty items from executive chef Jason Barrowcliff’s menu. Max your credit line by pairing Dijon-crusted New Zealand lamb chop with roasted tomato and garlic sauce with Harlan Estate 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. $695
The selection of wines will increase significantly with the completion of the restaurant’s new 1,500-bottle cellar in December. Items off the Cellar Selections list can run up to $200, but for a great value, owner Ryan German recommends the J Vineyards Pinot Noir, or, to pair with the rack of lamb, the 2003 Domaine Charbonniere Chateauneuf du Pape. Both $46
“I try really hard to create a cohesive experience,” says owner Jay Caputo. “What I do here is try to find stuff that is very food friendly and a little off the beaten path,” with a good back story, organic ingredients or eclectic nature. Because many of Caputo’s favorite bottles end up with limited allocations, “you’ve really got to take advantage of stuff while you get it.” He likes the Rocket Science, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, with steak and veal. $80
Vallé Cucina Italiano
Owner Frank Reno Jr. takes the philosophy of his father when choosing wines. “Everything on our wine list is something we’ve tried and liked,” he says. “We put our name behind it because it’s great wine.” Naturally the list is heavy with big Cabernets and Italians, running from $25 to $250 a bottle, to match steaks and pasta. But look closely and you’ll find hidden gems, like the rare but underpriced Chateau St. Jean Meritage ’94, a steal. $110.
Chef Gary Papp and owner John Donato maintain a symbiotic food-wine relationship. Papp prepares delicacies like seared ahi tuna with coconut sesame and Hawaiian sea salt at the Lewes restaurant. Donato adds a broad range of wines to complement. The selection isn’t the work of one man, though. Papp and his staff regularly taste wines to match the menus. The focus is good values that reflect the seasonality of the food. Papp’s current favorite is the Olivier Laflaive Bourgogne Blanc les Sétilles. “That’s a beautiful wine for $39. It’s quite fabulous,” Papp says.
Chef-owner Bill Karrow’s list has evolved to reflect the restaurant’s name, stretching into Spain, Argentina and Chile, while keeping the selections attainable. Though the seasonal nature of Rehoboth dining forces Fusion to trim its list when the leaves turn, keep an eye out for South American Malbecs and great pairings with the dense, lean (and fresh) Hawaiian fish he prefers. Feel like splurging a bit? Try the 1999 Franciscan “Magnificat” Napa. $72
Manager David Talmo keeps the classic fish house offerings-such as cornmeal dusted rainbow trout with chilis, grilled scallions, haricot vert and prickly pear beurre blanc-firmly in mind when making his list, pursuing artisan winemakers whose bottles he has cold-shipped to preserve their integrity. He’s been known to uncork the 1990 Poniatowsky Aigle Blanc, at $37 a bottle, for his own meals at the Wilmington restaurant, but the list doesn’t disappoint meat eaters. Order the grilled dry-aged New York strip steak with white truffle mushroom mashed potatoes, broccoli rabe, piquillo demi-glace and fried onions to savor with your Road’s End 2005 Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. $80