Austin wine lovers, rejoice. Our city is home to some of the country's best sommeliers, and excellent wine programs abound. From casual neighborhood hangouts to award-winning restaurant groups, here are the 2017 Tastemaker Awards nominees for Best Wine Program.
What started as an adorable home décor boutique has become one of Austin’s best wine bars. When husband-and-wife duo Shanna Eldridge and Marco Fiorilo added a little counter in the middle of the shop to serve wine to their customers, they had no idea the concept would quickly grow and evolve. They closed the store last fall to remodel and focus entirely on the wine. Fiorilo, and Argentinean native, hand picks the vino from boutique producers the world over to create an eclectic list with something for everyone. Fun, knowledgeable, and dedicated service makes Aviary the ultimate neighborhood hangout for cork dorks.
Recently chosen among the best sommeliers of the year by Food & Wine magazine, Bufalina’s owner Steven Dilley prides himself on his wine list, surprisingly deep for a “pizza joint.” Focusing primarily on French and Italian selections, the list includes cult champagnes and grand cru Burgundies alongside easier-on-the-wallet but tasty options in a variety of styles. One can argue that, in reality, Bufalina is a killer wine bar that serves some outstanding pizza.
Another small, yet thoughtfully curated wine list, perfectly matched to the international small plates that this cozy Clarksville institution is serving. Owner Cody Taylor and wine buyer Nathan Etheredge carefully select a seasonal list of wines that pair well with the eclectic flavors of chef Todd Havers’ cuisine, including little-known varietals and perennial crowd-pleasers.
Elm Restaurant Group
Master sommelier Craig Collins, who serves as beverage director for the successful restaurant group, is the man behind the wine lists at 24 Diner and Italic. At Italic, the impressive list is comprised 100 percent of Italian wines — with the exception of a few champagnes — and includes familiar names and unique varietals. Ever the instructor, Collins seeks to inform, educate, and convert even the staunchest of California drinkers. Plus, he gets a special nod for including Texas wine at 24 Diner.
Managing Partner Matt Berendt oversees the ever-changing lists at all locations of this pioneer of Austin’s wine bars. Intended to have something to please everyone, selections range from well-known Napa Cabernets and Chardonnays to lesser-known varietals from various regions, although Italian is a strong focus. For those who can’t make up their minds, the popular wine flights offer a chance to sip your way through a varietal, a region, or a country.
La Corsha Hospitality Group
In one of the best corporate moves ever, La Corsha nabbed superstar sommelier Paula Rester and brought her back to Austin after losing her to an attractive gig at Maialino in New York City. With her expert palate, Rester has achieved some of the most outstanding wine programs in town, from Second Bar + Kitchen to Boiler Nine and now Mattie’s. Her lists are chock-full of unique offerings and interesting labels, and she is always willing to offer advice for those seeking something more familiar.
When you have one of Austin’s best chefs as your business partner, you better bring you’re A game to the wine list, and Adam Orman, co-owner of this outstanding Mueller outpost, has done just that. Unfussy and well-balanced with a hint of wine-geek, his seasonally-changing list focuses mostly on Italian labels including lesser-known varietals like Grillo and Sagrantino, but leaves room for unexpected offerings like an Austrian Blaufrankisch and superb selections on tap.