Area oenophiles and occasional wine drinkers alike can rejoice in the selections found at a small yet elite group of local restaurants. Whether it’s that special-occasion “wow” bottle or something fun that’s also wildly affordable, all of these spots carry copious offerings to satisfy most any palate or budget. While each spot differs in its respective wine programs, they all possess one distinct commonality: the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, the gold standard for those seeking viniferous enjoyment.
Savona: The highest-rated Wine Spectator restaurant in the western suburbs has been awarded thusly for 1,300 outstanding reasons: That’s the approximate number of wine bottles general manager Maximilien Grange has in stock, listing label after label in his encyclopedic 45-page menu. Savona carries everything from a simple $45 American chardonnay to a $16,000 French burgundy—and most styles and price points in between. At Savona, wines are stored in a climate-controlled cellar. Those bottles (plus 26 wines by the glass) help to make this Riviera-inspired Mediterranean eatery a must-visit destination for wine connoisseurs from points near and far. 100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills, (610) 520-1200, savonarestaurant.com.
The Capital Grille: Size doesn’t matter—unless, of course, it does. No restaurant illustrates this proportional paradox any better than the Capital Grille, thanks to its impressive array of bottle sizes available to patrons. These range from a 1.87 mini-split and the typical .75-liter bottle, on up to the magnum, double-magnum and the voluminous Jeroboam (a five-liter behemoth that will make a splashy impact at any celebration). Certified sommelier Christopher Amman is there to guide you to your perfect size. 236 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia, (610) 265-1416, thecapitalgrille.com.
Dilworthtown Inn: With a wine inventory totaling more than 5,000 bottles, making the right choice has to be a daunting, if not pricey, proposition when dining at the Dilworthtown Inn, right? “No,” assures Stephen McKinney, the wine buyer for this well-regarded Chester County institution. “The inn has a reputation of being one of the most expensive in the area, but that’s not completely fair. You can easily spend $35 on a nice bottle, and you can also navigate and find whatever wine region you’re looking for.” From first-growth French wines to New World Italian, Spanish, Chilean and Argentinian varietals, the choices at Dilworthtown are almost endless. “Sure, you can spend whatever you want here, but I steer away from ordering the showpiece wines,” says McKinney. “We’re about being approachable, not about only targeting the wealthy 1 percent.” 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, (610) 399-1390, dilworthtown.com.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: What’s better than a glass of wine? How about 100 different glasses? “The Fleming’s 100” are big, California-based wines, each sold by the glass and kept fresh and drinkable for up to 20 times longer than typical wine-preserving methods through the Vinfinity system. “It removes oxygen and adds nitrogen to the bottle,” says operating partner Billy Sullivan. “Taking the gas out ensures its quality, so the last pour will taste just as fresh as the first one.” 555 E. Lancaster Ave., Radnor, (610) 688-9463, flemingssteakhouse.com.
Seasons 52: George Miliotes isn’t just a wine educator; he’s a master sommelier—one of only about 200 people in the world who holds this esteemed title. As the national beverage director for Darden Restaurants and its fresh-grill brand, Seasons 52, Miliotes is excited by his “drink them before they’re famous” program featuring new, undiscovered wineries and under-the-radar varietals. In tandem with famed Georges Duboeuf Wineries, Miliotes has just produced his Jolie Saison Gamay, a fruit-forward, medium-bodied wine that’s a perfect complement to a menu offered now through the winter months. After tasting 90 wine samples and narrowing it down to this special Gamay formula, one could say that Miliotes has possibly the greatest job in the world. And with Darden, it’s more than just seasonal work. 160 N. Gulph Road, King of Prussia, (610) 992-1152, seasons52.com.
Sovana Bistro: For most restaurant managers, the wine stock is what matters. To Sovana Bistro’s GM and sommelier, Adam Junkins, the actual list—and guests’ perceptions of it—is also important. His menu is chock full of flavor profiles and funky descriptors. It’s an insouciant read that borders on downright entertaining, with section headers like Easy Peazy (light and elegant varietals); Herba-Licious (undertones of fresh-cut grass); River Stones, Oyster Shells & Blue Slate (mineral tasting notes); Parliament Funkadelic (esoteric and unique); and The Queen (dedicated to chardonnay). “We’ve stayed away from standard descriptions,” says Junkins. “By doing so, our sales have really increased, especially with the more obscure bottles.” 696 Unionville Road, Suite 8, Kennett Square, (610) 444-5600, sovanabistro.com.
Nectar: There’s little new about a restaurant offering wine flights. But how about fortified flights? At this critically acclaimed Asian-fusion dining experience along Lancaster Avenue, sommelier Scott Zoccolillo provides a richly satisfying sampling called “The Hundred Years of Port.” Each of four pours contains 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-year-old varieties. Guests can select the type that suits them—whether it’s vintage, tawny, ruby or a rare white—or enjoy them all at once on this literal flight of fancy. Tastings can focus on the same producer, or four different labels. 1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, (610) 725-9000, tastenectar.com.
Yangming: With an inventory of about 7,000 wines, class is always in session at Yangming. This Chinese-Continental classic in the heart of the Main Line has always taken its wine program seriously through its specialized classes featuring some notable names. It’s not uncommon to find Di Bruno Bros. owner Emilio Minuccio at Yangming, or noted wine merchant Greg Moore. “The forums and wine dinners educate our clientele and expand their wine horizons,” says owner Michael Wei. 1051 Conestoga Road, Bryn Mawr, (610) 527-3200, yangmingrestaurant.com.