‘Tis the season for top food critics to release their lists of the restaurants that rocked their palates in 2015. New York Times critic Pete Wells has just unveiled his Top 10, while Los Angeles Times’ top taster Jonathan Gold assembled a list of 101 eateries (his top 20 are here). Cuisine ranges from Japanese to classic Californian to reimagined Mexican. Looking at the wine lists of these restaurants, Ribera del Duero and Rueda make many appearances, proving that chefs and top sommeliers know these Spanish regions pair with more than traditional tapas and paella.
Wells named Enrique Olvera’s inventive Mexican restaurant his favorite of the year, saying that “Mexican food in [New York] finally graduated from chips and guac.” Cosme beverage director Yana Volfson told us that “the wine list is definitely inspired by the food,” adding that there’s a “focus on Spain” because of the food pairing options. On Volfson’s current list, you’ll find the 2009 Finca Villacreces as well as a 2009 Malleolus de Valderramiro from Emilio Moro to pair with crispy octopus with hazelnut mole pickled potatoes and the heralded duck carnitas wth onions, radishes and salsa verde that Wells called one of his top 10 dishes of the year.
The kitchen of Wolfgang Puck’s Californian flagship restaurant is now guided by master chef Lee Hefter who “has reinvented the entire menu with his signature farm-to-table philosophy, heightening the iconic California cuisine Puck catapulted to stardom.” Multiple Riberas decorate the wine list, including the 2011 Aalto, the 2008 CDP Manso and a 2010 Pérez Pascuas from Vina Pedrosa. All three would be great company for whole wheat bigoli “spaghetti” with braised octopus ragout and Spanish chorizo or a whole roasted cantonese duck with steamed bao buns and fruit compote. From the hills of Ribera all the way to Hollywood, in the name of good taste.
Pete Wells says this tribute to Alsace has “cooking so exuberant and generous that it’s hard to resist, and nobody else slings foie gras like [chef] Kruether.” While the food has its initial inspiration from France, you’ll find multiple Ribera del Dueros on the menu, including Flor de Pingus, Bodegas Arzuaga Reserva and Bodegas y Viñedos Alión to pair with dishes like brandt beef skirt steak with black trumpet mushrooms, Long Island crescent duck with red cabbage and meyer lemon gastrique and fallow venison loin with brown butter sweet potato.
Gold has said that former Ubuntu (and Michelin-starred) chef Jeremy Fox has “transformed a wine bar into the perfect restaurant of the moment.” A menu that celebrates farmers who practice sustainable agriculture has a wine list that “focuses on small producers whose stories the staff can share with you.” On that list, you’ll find a 2013 Rueda from Vidal + Vidal that will pair perfectly with pozole verde with mussels, white yams with celery and green garlic butter or apples, kohlrabi, and radicchio with pancetta and cheddar.
Wells says this bustling Park Avenue newcomer is a “victory for populism” that “proves that New York can still whip up a large, crowd-pleasing restaurant where the food is worth getting excited about.” This East Coast eatery is inspired by Californian cuisine, but its wine list invites Spain in with a 2014 Ruedas and Riberas from Tamaral as well as a 2013 Protos and a 2011 Torré de Golbán Reserva. Those can be paired with a wide-ranging menu that includes crispy duck wings with lemon and yuzu, bucatini cacio e pepe, lamb neck with potato petals and feta and cioppino loaded with clams, red shrimp, striped bass and crab.