The results of Augusta Magazine’s Best Of results for “Wine Menu” leave a lot to be desired. For one, it is called a “Wine List,” not a “Wine Menu.” One would think that Augusta Magazine would get this right.

There are three things that make up a good wine list and quantity of wines available is not one of them, a great wine list can be short or long. Below are the three factors required for a great wine list. Most would agree with the first two items with no argument. The third is equally important, in my opinion.

  • Wines are selected to complement the menu items. Great wines that do not complement a particular restaurant’s menu are worthless.
  • Appropriate wines are selected across a range of prices. There are great wines at all cost points (we aren’t talking Boone’s Farm or Ripple, here). No matter how upscale or expensive a restaurant’s food is, there should be excellent affordable wines offered.
  • The Sommelier, if the restaurant has one, and the wait staff, must be knowledgeable as to what wines are most appropriate for the various menu items, while also taking into account the diner’s unique preferences and budget. What good is a wine list if a proper recommendation cannot be made?

OK, so here are the results of Augusta Magazine’s Best Wine Menu for 2010:

  1. Villa Europa
  2. Calvert’s and Cadwallader’s tied for second
  3. French Market Grill West

The first thing that immediately hits me is that the two restaurants in Augusta whose wine lists have been commended by Wine Spectator magazine are not among the four winners. Hmmm, what is wrong with that picture? Perhaps the people voting in this poll have no clue about what a good wine list is or perhaps they voted for the restaurants they have been to that actually had a wine list.

The two restaurants that I am aware have been commended by Wine Spectator are La Maison on Telfair and Augustino’s at the Marriott. I have personal experience with the wine lists at all these restaurants except Cadwallader’s. By far the best are La Maison and Augustino’s. The wait staff at La Maison, in particular, know the wine list intimately. Chef Heinz is a Sommelier in his own right.

At Calvert’s, French Market Grill, and Villa Europa, staff do not have knowledge of the wine-food pairings in my experiences. Last time I was at Calvert’s, a very overrated restaurant, the waitress had to go ask someone when I asked for a recommendation and what she came back recommending indicated to me that the extent of the wine knowledge present in the kitchen that night was that red wine goes with red meat. Same with Villa Europa, another overrated restaurant. I have never asked for a recommendation at French Market Grill.

Bottom line is that if people go by Augusta Magazine’s Best Of Wine Menu, they will never see the top two wine lists in Augusta. That is a disservice to their readers and the deserving restaurants.


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