We’re not the only ones in the list-making business. Wine Spectator magazine, one of the resources for the vino-enjoying crowd, has been compiling an annual guide of the best restaurant wine lists around the globe since 1981, and this year, eight area establishments made the cut. Restaurants who make it into Wine Spectator’s guide are given a rating of one, two or three stars (wine glasses, actually) with one being excellent, two being super-excellent and three being super-duper-excellent. Blue Light Grill, C&O, Clifton, The Downtown Grille, The Melting Pot, The Old Mill Room at the Boar’s Head Inn and Silver Thatch Inn each received one star this year. And because you, the readers, chose C&O for your favorite wine list this year, we first wanted to give you a shout-out for being just as über-sophisticated and discerning as the know-it-all Wine Spectator folks.
Thanks to the expertise of Wine Director Richard Hewitt, Fossett’s at Keswick Hall is one of only 748 dining spots in the world to receive two stars in Wine Spectator magazine’s annual guide of the best restaurant wine lists.
But only slightly more exciting than the major league palate of C-VILLE readers is that for the third year in a row, Fossett’s at Keswick Hall received two stars, one of only 748 dining spots in the world to get that rating. The magazine gives out the higher two-star rating to honor lists that (1) have a broader range and depth of wine regions and producers represented and (2) are easy to use and demonstrate the restaurant’s "enthusiasm for wine and food." Fossett’s has a whopping 680 wines on its list that comprises all the major national and international wine regions (sounds enthusiastic to us!), and Wine Spectator notes that the list is particularly strong in California and French selections. Just who is behind that mammoth cellar? That’s Fossett’s Wine Director Richard Hewitt. We checked in with him for the juice behind the juice.
Hewitt, who is originally from California, came to Fossett’s six years ago by way of Massachusetts, where he ran the food and beverage program at Blantyre for 12 years. And like many food and beverage industry converts, he has a seemingly unrelated educational degree—anthropology and linguistics. We bet, however, those language skills come in handy when pronouncing Pouilly-Fuisse and spelling Chateauneuf-du-Pape and explaining in very diplomatic terms to a clueless customer that their favorite buttery, oaky Chardonnay does not go well with the grilled fish entrée they’ve selected. Hewitt not only buys the wine and writes Fossett’s very enthusiastic, 32-page wine menu, but also interprets it for the restaurant’s often intimidated clientele.
So Fossett’s list has pages and pages of Bordeauxs and Burgundies, Barolos and Biancos. Big deal, right? Been there, done that, right? What makes Fossett’s two-star worthy? Hewitt identifies several distinctions. His list contains insightful information with which wine consumers are increasingly concerned, such as which selections are organic and which come from up-and-coming female producers. The list also includes what Hewitt refers to as "exotic and esoteric" selections, such as a Pino Meunier (usually, a Champagne blending grape) from California’s Domaine Chandon and a Furmint from Hungary. But even better, Fossett’s has the most extensive list of Virginia wines on the planet with 70. Wine Spectator-decorated and still good to its neighbors—that’s worth 10 stars in Restaurantarama’s book!
So all this talk of multipage wines lists and obscure Hungarian grapes probably has you feeling terribly inept in the wine-knowledge department…and terribly thirsty. Well, we have just the thing to further your grape education and wet your whistle—Market Street Wineshop‘s monthly wine dinners. Robert Harllee says his shop has been co-hosting educational pairing dinners at area restaurants for 10 years now. On Tuesday, August 14, at 7pm, Harllee leads a tasting at Zinc French bistro that features classic bistro wines like Muscadet, Beaujolais and selections from Côtes du Rhône—those are what Restaurantarama calls the people’s wines. So go get some, people!