The annual 2019 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards celebrates the best in Dallas-Fort Worth food and drink — and in this case, by "drink," we're talking about wine. Food is great but a fine dinner becomes all the finer when accompanied by a glass of wine.
For the category of Wine Program of the Year, we included 10 esteemed establishments: from fancy steakhouses with mega-cellars to a taqueria with a wine program that's truly unique.
Dallas is lucky to have such a wide assortment of places to get a great glass of wine.
From these 10 nominees, our panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, narrowed it down to one that will win the top award.
You can find out who when the winners are announced at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards party on April 25 at Fashion Industry Gallery. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are our 10 nominees for the 2019 Tastemaker Awards Wine Program of the Year:
Steakhouses are always a win for wine drinkers, but Al Biernat's is considered to have one of the best cellars in Dallas, if not all of Texas. With more than 700 selections and a cellar of over 10,000 bottles, the program features big names from California, Oregon, France, Italy, and Australia as well as small family producers and hard-to-find gems. Their top-tier service includes Riedel crystal stemware, wine served at the proper cellar temperature, and the guidance of Todd Lincicome who has been named Best Sommelier/Wine Director in Dallas by numerous publications.
As part of a multi-million dollar renovation, the Hotel Crescent Court revived this longtime Dallas favorite in 2018, with a new menu, craft cocktails, and a large selection of Scotch and Whiskey. Its wine list places a strong emphasis on affordability over rarities, but the standout here is in the sparkling category: It has more than 30 world-class champagnes and international sparkling wines from France, California, Italy, and more including Domaine Carneros, Perrier-Jouet, Schramsberg, and Mumm.
Bodega Wine Bar
Cozy spot in Lakewood is like a cross between a wine cellar and your living room, where you can get a reasonably priced bottle, a flight, or a glass. You can even bring your own wine. Owner Amier Taherzadeh cares less about bagging the Big Cab — although he can get you one if you really want — but instead on providing a place for a quiet, relaxing celebration of the joys of wine.
Dee Lincoln Prime
If it's the ridiculously big steakhouse wine list you seek, then Dee Lincoln Prime fills the bill. Thanks to her days with Del Frisco's Steakhouse, Lincoln has a history with steakhouses and wine, having also founded Dee Lincoln's Tasting Room & Bubble Bar (now closed). Her Frisco restaurant features a high-tech climate-controlled wine cellar with 2,100-plus bottles and a Wineemotion dispensing and preservation system to showcase eight wines by the glass.
Del Frisco's Grille
Highly accessible wine list includes not just steakhouse staples but also an eclectic variety of new-age, adventurous wines from regions off-the-beaten path. The Grille also emphasizes expertise, with in-house sommelier at each location. The chain recently scored a new exclusive DFG by Paul Hobbs wine: a classic Argentinian Malbec created by legendary winemaker Paul Hobbs specifically for Del Frisco’s Grille.
Mediterranean restaurant is acclaimed not only for its food but also for its well-chosen wine list, with a selection of bottles from regions previously unexplored in these parts. It's a clever match for the broad culinary reach of their menu, with wines from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, Slovenia, and Corsica. The average price of a bottle is about $50, offering an attractive opportunity to try something new.
The wine list at this Design District restaurant is singularly, exclusively Italian — from the $40 bottle of Friulano colli orientalli white from Piedmont, all the way to the 2010 vintage Elio Altare Barolo Cerretta, a big bold red Nebbiolo for $470. Prices are not particularly cheap, but how many restaurants in town can you get a fabulous sparkling Franciacorta from Lombardy, in this case the cuvee prestige by Ca' del Bosco, for $14 by the glass?
Bustling pizzeria from the Frontburner group (Whiskey Cake, Mexican Sugar, The Ranch) with two locations in Plano and Dallas is named for the fact that it offers 60 wines by the glass, including wines on tap. Aside from its eco-friendliness, it's customer-friendly, as well. The menu offers options in a variety of quantities, from a 2.5-ounce sip to a 5-ounce mid-size to an 8-ounce big pour, plus thematic flights that let you sample and compare.
Taco Y Vino
Oak Cliff taqueria and wine shop comes from Jimmy Contreras, whose 15 years of experience in the wine industry means he knows what's good and has the connections. But beyond his expertise, those years gave him a desire to make wine more mainstream, to remove its aura of unapproachability. Pairing them with tacos is one way to do it. Another: sell his wines basically at retail rates, meaning you can enjoy something like a Musar Jeune Rose from Lebanon for $30, far more affordable than what you would otherwise get at a restaurant.
Formerly with Nick & Sam's and Hotel Zaza, The Charles' owner Chas Martin brings a certain level of wine savvy that shows on the list at his new Design District restaurant. His list is small — just under 100 bottles — but unique: mostly Italian, with some of best wine priced at $50 you can buy. They also offer noteworthy selections by the glass, including super Tuscan reds and even Billecart-Salmon Champagne, which you don't see all that often by the glass.