Vail Valley wine lists win awards |

Vail Valley wine lists win awards

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Splendido Wine Award DT 8-16-08

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Welcome to a private wine tasting. On a Monday afternoon at Matthew’s restaurant in Edwards, co-owner Elena Jones sips a cabernet franc from Australia.

She writes a glowing review in her notebook: Two stars mean the wine is good for her customers; a heart signifies she likes the taste. Quite possibly, this offering from a saleswoman with the Veraison beverage distributor in Gypsum could make the restaurant’s wine list.

Matthew’s is among the 21 local restaurants that won Wine Spectator awards in the magazine’s Aug. 31 issue. The awards indicated the world’s 4,129 best wine lists in 2008.

Since Matthew’s opened in November, the eatery has amassed 118 different wines. Hailing from across the world, the wines appear on the list in categories with quirky names like “crisp and racy.”

When she picks the wines, Jones strives for diversity.

“I think about the customer: what does the customer want?” Elena Jones said. “I want to be able to say: ‘Hey, I can offer you a great cab(ernet) for $32 or I can offer you a great cab for $132.”

Matthew’s is one of the 17 eateries that won the magazine’s “Award of Excellence.” Eateries with this award typically have more than 100 wines from quality producers that pair well with the restaurant’s cuisine, according to Wine Spectator. A spokeswoman with Wine Spectator declined to comment.

With 3,254 winners worldwide, the “Award of Excellence” is the most inclusive category of the “Wine Spectator” awards, though the magazine says it is still hard to achieve. Of the 982 new entries this year, 319 failed to win, the magazine states.

The remaining four Vail Valley restaurants on the list won the next highest level of honor: “The Best of Award of Excellence” award. They include Splendido at the Chateau, Zach’s Cabin and Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, along with La Tour in Vail. Restaurants that win this award typically have more than 400 wines with either a wide global range of top producers or specialization in a certain country or region, the magazine states. They also display vintage depth and solid verticals, Wine Spectator said. Translation? Just look at La Tour’s wine list as an example.

Wine director Paul Demaurio said the restaurant boasts 550 different wines. With up to 5,200 bottles, the cache takes up a cellar below the restauarant.

“This room ” you won’t be able to move in here come December,” Demaurio said. “it’s pretty much shoulder to shoulder.”

Although La Tour concentrates mainly on American and French styles, it has offerings from every major wine-producing region in the world. The most expensive wine is a 2001 Romanee for $8,000. With regard to verticals, La Tour has bottles of a Richebourg burgandy from 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The oldest bottle of wine at La Tour is a 1959 Clos Vougeot burgandy from France.

When Demaurio tastes wine prospects from distributors, he looks for wines that lack flaws and are typical of the region where they originate.

Why are local eateries so wine focused?

Scott Yenerich, the sommelier at Splendido at the Chateau, said the valley’s status as an international tourist desination plays a role in the wine lists.

Smaller wineries that create limited batches of wines tend to allocate bottles to the Vail Valley because they are exposed to customers from around the world, Yenerich said.

“They want to showcase it to all kinds of people,” he said.

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or

Support Local Journalism