July 29, 2013 • 07:08:25 a.m.

Taste of the Town: Three area restaurants awarded for best wine lists

By NICOLE WESKERNA - nweskerna@shawmedia.com

Patrick Neary, owner of Wildwood in Geneva, sits in the restaurant’s dining room. Wine Spectator magazine recently named Wildwood to its 2013 Restaurant Wine List for having some of the best wine selections around. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

With wine lists that boast hundreds of labels, three local restaurants recently have earned accolades for having some of the best wine selections in the world.

This year, Wine Spectator magazine awarded more than 2,800 restaurants with the Award of Excellence, including Wildwood and Atwater’s in Geneva, and The Turf Room in North Aurora.

All three restaurants have graced the Restaurant Wine List Awards in previous years. The Award of Excellence recognizes restaurants with wine lists offering a diverse selection of 100 or more wines that are “well-presented and thematically match the restaurant’s cuisine in both price and style,” according to Wine Spectator. Award winners are named across all 50 U.S. states, 76 countries and 11 cruise ships.

• Atwater’s – at The Herrington Inn & Spa, 15 S. River Lane, Geneva; 630-208-7433
Paul Ruby, general manager and vice president of operations and hospitality at Atwater’s, at The Herrington Inn & Spa in Geneva, said this year was the ninth year the restaurant’s wine list has been recognized by Wine Spectator.

“Wine is a pretty important part of our business in a sense that our menu is carefully put together,” he said. “The wine list and menu are very carefully paired together. To be recognized for being able to do that well is very nice.”

Atwater’s has about 125 wines to choose from, including a first-growth Grand Cru and Chateau Haut-Brion. Mark Czubak is a sommelier at Atwater’s – a job title that requires him to know a lot about wine. He said Atwater’s tries to fill its wine lists with bottles from all different regions of the world at all different price points.

“We try to give access to any flavor in the wine world that you’d like. We leave it ever-changing, let it flow, let new things come in and let old things go out,” Czubak said. “We’re very much a wine-centric restaurant. We feel that’s our strength and that’s what people come here for.”

• Wildwood, 477 S. Third St., Geneva; 630-377-8325
Wildwood in Geneva has captured a Wine Spectator award for the past three years. Patrick Neary, owner of the restaurant, described the list of more than 250 wines as “extensive and well-priced.” The wines span from the West Coast to several countries, including Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and Portugal.

Wildwood also offers a reserve wine list with some better-known, high-end wines, such as Hillside Select. The menu also has a selection of about 20 wines-by-the-glass, ranging in price from $7 to $15.
“I think we’re probably known for the breadth of our selection, and our markups are low,” he said.

The restaurant also is known for its “wine flights,” where customers can try three 1.5-ounce pours of wines by the glass. Wildwood is doing a special wine flight during the Geneva Arts Fair, which starts Saturday, July 27. Those who buy $10 wine flights during the weekend of the Geneva Arts Fair can sample a chardonnay, a pinot noir and a zinfandel. Half of the proceeds will go to three charities: Snowball Express for families of fallen soldiers, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Society for Prevention of Cruelness to Animals.

In addition to wine flights, the restaurant also does occasional wine tastings to showcase its award-winning wine list.

“It’s very nice to be recognized,” Neary said. “Our guests certainly recognize that we’ve got a very extensive, well-priced wine list.”

• The Turf Room, 650 Randall Crossing Lane, North Aurora; 630-906-9300
This is the second year The Turf Room in North Aurora has claimed a Restaurant Wine List Award for its wine list of more than 400 wines. Tammy Goldstein, general manager of the restaurant, said the list is about 80 percent American wine, and the other 20 percent comes from all over the world, including Argentina, France, Italy and Germany.

Goldstein said it’s nice to be recognized for the second year in a row, especially because the competition includes well-known, popular chains.

“For us to be recognized is just very pleasant,” she said. “We’re doing something right.”

Some of its specialty wines include Premier Wines from Napa Valley. Goldstein said the wine is special because only a handful of cases are produced, and The Turf Room has 12 bottles of the wine, and only about 60 bottles have been produced.

The restaurant also offers about 40 wines-by-the-glass, allowing customers to taste wines without having to buy a whole bottle. It also does wine flights and decanter pours, which are 8- to 16-ounce pours for those who want the best wine pairing with a meal.

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