What the Michelin star is to food in the dining world, the Wine Spectator Restaurant Award is to wine, and three local restaurants can now claim to be winners of this coveted award: Boonville’s Disco Ranch, Mendocino’s Ravens at the Stanford Inn and Fort Bragg’s HarborView Bistro & Bar.
Wine Spectator, the world’s most prestigious wine magazine, has been recognizing restaurant wine lists with the Restaurant Award for decades. There are three tiers for the award: the Award of Excellence, Best of Award of Excellence, and the highest tier – the Grand Award. This year, 3,505 restaurants around the world were given awards. Our local winners were given the Award of Excellence, which Wine Spectator describes as “wine lists, which should offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Whether compact or extensive, focused or diverse, these lists deliver sufficient choice to satisfy discerning wine lovers.”
“It’s an honor to be awarded for four years in a row,” says Wendy Lamer, owner of Disco Ranch, a specialty food market, wine shop and tapas bar located along Highway 128 in Boonville. Lamer has been selling wine for over 40 years, including in Georgia and Arizona before settling in Anderson Valley. Disco Ranch offers on average 275 selections of wine, including wines produced around the corner at local wineries and international selections.
Of the total wine selection at Disco Ranch, one-third of the wines domestic and 80% are small production wineries. When tourists visit, Lamer serves as a concierge, helping wine country visitors discover local wines and guiding guests to the best wineries based on their palates. On the flipside, Lamer wants her fellow Anderson Valley neighbors to support local brands, while also finding reasonably priced French rosé for daily sipping and Spanish cavas to celebrate. She acknowledges Wine Spectator as being a premier publication for wine education and reviews for wine lovers around the world. As a result, “the recognition of Wine Spectator gives great street credits,” she says.
Lamer is correct in that assessment – Wine Spectator has been doling out wine “street cred” since the awards started in 1981. Foodies and wine enthusiasts seek out Restaurant Award winners using the magazine’s website to research destination restaurants internationally or cafes and bars in their neighborhoods that offer diverse wine lists to accommodate all types of palates and price points.
Jeff Stanford, founder-owner of Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino, also recognizes the prestige the award brings to restaurants. His restaurant, the Ravens, has been awarded a Restaurant Award annually since 2009. The Ravens is a vegan restaurant that has served locally sourced, plant-based cuisine to hungry travelers for decades.
The Ravens wine list, which is curated by wine consultant Brendan McGuigan, comprises primarily organic and low intervention wines from Mendocino County, including a large selection of vegan wines. Winemakers may use animal-based ingredients (i.e., gelatin, egg whites, casein) to help with the filtering process. As a result, establishments like the Ravens amplify vegan wines and bring more awareness to the use of animal products in winemaking, something likely noted by Wine Spectator reviewers. “Winning this award validates that the Ravens is for everyone,” says Stanford, acknowledging the inclusivity of his establishment for those seeking to explore a plant-based lifestyle.
McGuigan also curated the wine list at the HarborView Bistro & Bar at Noyo Harbor. The establishment, located in the Noyo River Inn, is a second year Restaurant Award winner. “For us, [the award] is really about showcasing our commitment to creating an accessible, dynamic [wine] list,” says McGuigan, “both to serve our community and to give our guests the best experience we can.”
HarborView offers river views paired with a small, eclectic wine list averaging 80 selections nightly. As an establishment that attracts both locals and tourists alike, McGuigan created an accessible list that impressed Wine Spectator reviewers. “If you want an everyday sipper, we want you to have a few options,” he says, “and if you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, we want you to have some good value options that make the splurge not wasteful.” Guests can enjoy wines from Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties or explore international wines from Spain and Greece. “A little bit of something for everyone,” says McGuigan.
The entire list of Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners here.
Note: Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture, weather and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control.