At Jacksonville Fine Dining Examiner, we believe that a great meal is not complete unless it is accompanied by great wine. Wine actually improves and accentuates the flavors in food and vise-versa. For instance, high acid wine like Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with goat cheese and sweet wines like an Auslese Riesling actually mellow out the flavors of spicy foods. Of course, big, high tannin red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon go well with bold steaks.
In Jacksonville, there are a few select restaurants that have outstanding wine lists and that’s what you will find on this list. Wine lists that include a few Napa Cabs, Pinot Noir from Sonoma, a non-classified growth Bordeaux and a token German Riesling are not what you will find here. Rather, these top five restaurants have extensive wine lists that offer multiple bottles from the best wine regions around the world.
In a previous article, we focused on the top 10 restaurants for wine. In that article, we took into account both food and wine to provide a broad overview of 10 recommended restaurants. In this article, we will go more in-depth as we focus on the wine lists themselves and narrow it down to the top 5 lists. Also, to make this list, the restaurant must have posted its wine list online. Without further ado, here are our choices for the top 5 wine lists in Jacksonville for 2014:
5. Matthew’s (2107 Hendrick’s Ave, Jacksonville): Mathew’s has received the “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator Magazine, which cited the restaurant’s strength in California wine. That strength is evidenced in their two California Cabernet Sauvignon options by the glass: 2010 William Hill Estate Winery, Central Coast ($9) (Check out William Hill’s excellent website at this link), 2011 Pedroncelli, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley ($14). Their American Cabernet bottles are a site to behold with multiple vintages by Harlan Estate, Bond, Shafer, Revana, Groth, Darioush, Caymus, Silver Oak, Jordan. They also have nice, affordable selections like 2012 Josh Cellars, Cabernet from Sonoma ($38). Matthew’s also offers an abbreviated selection of French wine’s including 1st growth Bordeaux like 1999 Chateau Lafite Rothschild from Pauillac ($2,500) and Segla, Margaux ($102), the second wine of second growth Chateau Rauzan Segla.
Matthew’s complete wine list.
4. Wine Cellar (1314 Prudential Dr., Jacksonville): Located in downtown Jacksonville, Wine Cellar markets itself as a fine wine restaurant…and their wine list lives up to the hype. The wine list starts with champagne like Louis Roderer “Cristal” 2002 ($510). Next, they go right to he Bordeaux red wine with options like 1973 Chateau Mouton Rothschild ($325). What’s nice is that they mention the ullage or fill level as medium fill and that may have dropped the price a bit. They also offer other 1st growths like Chateau Margaux 1983 for $575. They proceed to list other great areas French areas like Burgundy, Rhone, Alsace, and Loire Valley. Next are the Italian, Australian, New Zealand, Chilean, and Argentinian wines, followed by California. A couple we recommend appear on the list, like Franciscan, BV, and Frog’s Leap, all from Napa. On the last page is the wines by the glass, which includes lots of selections, including the affordable and enjoyable, Chateau Ste. Michelle J. Riesling from Washington State for $9 per glass. The only drawback is that the list difficult to follow possibly because the wines are not sorted by price.
The wine list at Wine Cellar.
3. Bistro Aix (1440 San Marco Blvd., Jacksonville): Bistro Aix offers an eccentric wine list to match their eccentric ambiance. If you are feeling like something different, Bistro Aix offers “Outside the Box” selections like Storybook Mountain Vineyards Viognier ($59) and Trapiche Broquel Torrontex from Valle De Cafayate Argentina ($36). The list focuses on New World California wines, although plenty of Old World wines are available.
Bistro Aix’s wine list.
2. Salt (Ritz Carlton, 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy, Amelia Island): Salt is located a little ways outside of Jacksonville proper, but we wanted to include it because it has such a great wine list. Salt has what we would consider a “complete” wine list, that includes extensive New World and Old World wines. Bordeaux in particular is smartly split up into Right Bank and Left Bank and then into communes/appellations. They even mention the growth classification. For instance, Salt offers Left Bank Bordeaux from Pauillac including Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Lalande from 1989 and specifies that it is a second growth. They also offer California wines that we recommend like Oberon and Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon and Pahlmeyer.
The wine list at Salt.
1. Restaurant Orsay (3630 Park St., Jacksonville): This Avondale restaurant has what we consider the most impressive and well-put-together wine list in Jacksonville. They are also the only restaurant we are aware of in Jacksonville to receive the “Best of Award of Excellent” from WineSpectator. To start, Restaurant Orsay offers an extensive selection of wines by the glass. Options like a Mosel (Germany) Kabinett Riesling by Heinz Eifel is available at $8 per glass. There is also a Chardonnay from one of our favorite new producers: Aviary (Napa Valley) for $10 per glass. Aviary also makes an excellent and well-priced (~$20) Cabernet Sauvignon. As for red, they offer a Bordeaux by the glass: Chateau Roland la Garde (2010) for $11. For those who like California Cabernet Sauvignon, there three by the glass, including Nadia, Santa Barbara 2011 ($12).
Moving on to the bottles, Orsay offers affordable half bottles options of white wine like Domaine Savary 2012 Chalis ($25) and Seghesio, Zinfandel from Sonoma County ($25). The list starts to really impress when you get to the regular 750ml bottles. We rarely see the famous Salon Blanc de Blancs Campagne on any lists, but Orsay has three vintages. As for Chardonnay, Orsay offers more than 40 different options from areas like Corton in Corton and Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, France along with upscale producers from America. The Riesling section leaves a bit to be desired, but they still have several ranging from Mosel to Willamette Valley.
The next section of the wine list is labeled “Indie White”. These include some obscure, but interesting grapes that you don’t typically see like Arneis, Picpoul, Trousseau Gris and slightly more mainstream Gewurstraminer and Viognier. Next comes an entire page of wines from France’s Rhone Valley. These are listed from North to South with an excellent and simple illustration. In the north, you have options like Domaine Michel & Stephane Ogier, Cote-Rotie from 2008 for $130 per bottle. As one might expect, the South portion includes Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe La Crau 2008 ($130), which is a Grenache-based blend, but includes several other grapes. Cru Beaujolais (a low tannin, fruity wine) comes next and includes options from Fleurie and Morgon.
Orsay’s Pinot Noir section is next and includes one of the most extensive lists we’ve seen. An entire section is devoted to California and includes affordable options like Three Saints, Santa Maria Valley ($45) all the way up to Kosta Gap’s Crown, Sonoma Coast 2011 for $240 per bottle. The quintessential Pinot Noir regions comes next: Burgundy France. This is an amazing list, including excellent options from Gevrey-Charmbertin like Domain Alain Burguet Mes Favorites, Gevry-Chambertin 2008 ($155). There are also some wines from the world renowned Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, which go all the way up to $2,500 per bottle for the 2009 St. Vivant Grand Cru.
Our favorite area for red wine in France is Bordeaux, so we wish that the list would offer as many top-notch Bordeaux options as Burgundy…but c’est la vie. The Bordeaux list is still one of the best in the area and includes some classified growths from the 1855 classification. These include wines from our favorite appellation, Margaux, like 2nd growth Chateau Rauzan-Segla 1996 ($340). They also offer the headliner 1st growth Chateau Haut Brion, Pessac-Loegnan 2000 ($1,200) and only chateau to every move from 2nd growth to 1st growth status: Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, 2005 ($1,200). Spain, Italy, and Portugal are also featured on list, making it one of the most impressive lists we’ve seen and our choice for the best in Jacksonville.
Here’s a link to Restaurant Orsay’s wine list.
On a side note, the most impressive wine list we have seen in Florida is Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian. Just to give you an idea: they offer several wines by the glass…including Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2001 ($250), Grands Echezeaux Grand Crus Domain de La Romanee Conti 2001 ($250), Penfolds Grange 1999 ($240) and last but not least Petrus 2001 ($575). Yes, you read that right, it’s $575 per glass.
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