DISH - Wine Listings Uncorked Best restaurant offerings in Hampton Roads Stellar Cellar Awards



Hampton Roads Magazine celebrates the very best
restaurant offerings in our fifth annual Stellar Cellar Wine Awards

Call it the Oenophile Era; folks are more wine savvy now than ever before, and restaurants must keep pace. News about wine is everywhere—television, newspaper, magazine and radio. People blog about it, tweet about it and talk about it at festivals, tastings and other gatherings.

Following suit with the rest of the wine industry, restaurant wine lists are also an ever-evolving thing. Today's wine lists are more approachable and have grown to include a wide range of price points to please many pocketbooks. Staff members—not just sommeliers—are well-versed and eager to help with selections.

Our Stellar Cellar Wine Awards are all about showcasing the outstanding restaurants in our region and the wonderful vintages they offer. The awards are open to any Hampton Roads restaurant through an application process.

Decisions are made solely by a panel of experts who review applications, wine lists and menus. They carefully consider factors like how the wines on the list pair and match with the food offered; the range of selections and prices; how the restaurants keep up their wine education and share it with patrons through dinners and other venues; and special features like exceptional wine storage, stemware and the like.
Each restaurant is evaluated on its own merit, and each with the same criteria used to evaluate other applicants.

As the judging sheets were completed, it became clear how many great lists there are; every restaurant had some outstanding element on its wine menu. We encourage you to enjoy exploring these fine establishments and the many offerings they hold, from delicious meals to tempting wines.

We graded restaurants and placed each in a category: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Pewter. Following are our choices; cheers!

The Criteria

A group of skilled professionals, currently not working in a restaurant, were selected due to their talents and knowledge of wine to evaluate offerings from restaurants that applied for consideration for the Stellar Cellar Awards.   An applicant's wine list and dinner menu were reviewed, along with an application submitted by the restaurant's sommelier or other person in charge of the wine program. Criteria reviewed included:

  • Diversity and suitability overall
  • Wine by the glass offerings
  • Pricing – fair mark up and something for everyone
  • Wine programs/dinners
  • Guest education/ involvement
  • Miscellaneous, such as unique offerings

Each criterion was given a point value, with a possible total value of up to 100 points. Grading sheets were totaled and averaged to arrive at a numeric evaluation, giving a value to assign to the different categories.   We feel the quality of professionals on our panel was top-notch and the selection process fair and balanced. —PEH

Platinum Level

Blue Talon Bistro
420 Prince George St., Williamsburg

Responsible for wine program: Adam Steely, owner/manager
Total wine selections: 100
Virginia wine selections: 5
Wines by the glass: 36
Of note: Staff visits regional wineries annually and performs weekly tastings; for customers, there are monthly tastings of 30 to 40 wines or a winemaker's dinner offered —Adam Steely, owner/manager

Cobalt Grille
Hilltop North Shopping Center, 1624 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach
Responsible for wine program: Arden Allen, wine
buyer/wine steward
Total wine selections: 146
Virginia wine selections: 2
Wines by the glass: 14
Of note: "This is a well-conceived and beautifully-executed list. If you're looking for a nice Chardonnay but don't have deep pockets, there's a perfectly fine $19 bottle—Jekel '07. If you're feeling flush, go for the Pahlmeyer '06 for $120. Either way, you're in for a treat and will keep within your budget. The same goes for practically every varietal here." —Critic's comment

Fat Canary
410 Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg
Responsible for wine program: David Ricker, manager
Total wine selections: 950
Virginia wine selections: 65
Wines by the glass: 19
Of note: "A beautifully-written list paired perfectly with the cuisine from Chef Tom Power's kitchen. A good balance of offerings at price points from approachable to splurge. An outstanding showing of support of Virginia wines, with a staggering 65 selections." —Critic's comment

River Stone Chophouse
8032 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk
Responsible for wine program: Cindy McGann, sommelier and co-owner
Total wine selections: 225
Virginia wine selections: 2
Wines by the glass: 26
Of note: Stolze stemware; 6-ounce pours; temperature-controlled wines by the glass for white and red; 30 wines for $30 or less —Cindy McGann, sommelier/co-owner

Inside the Hilton
Virginia Beach Oceanfront
3001 Atlantic Ave.,
Virginia Beach
Responsible for wine program: Nikolay Dimitrov, manager
Total wine selections: 289
Virginia wine selections: 11
Wines by the glass: 14
Of note: "The focus of the wine program at Salacia is to represent a carefully-chosen and extensive selection of wines from the viniculture regions of the United States, Australia, France, New Zealand, Spain, Chile, Argentina and Italy. Blending tradition and innovation, famous producers and boutique wineries allow us to share the taste of rated wines and new experiments, balancing a wide array of flavors and aromas." —Nikolay Dimitrov, manager

Sonoma Wine Bar and Bistro
Town Center of Virginia Beach
189 Central Park Ave.,
Virginia Beach
Responsible for wine program: Danna Alfieri, sommelier
Total wine selections: 356
Virginia wine selections: 4
Wines by the glass: 66
Of note: "Our wine display racks are Honduran mahogany with the capacity to hold 1,525 bottles; [they are the] recipient of architectural design awards. [Our] wine keeper (cruvinet) [has] 43 taps to preserve our wines up to six weeks [and is] the second largest wine keeper in the U.S." —Kati Newman, general manager

Stove the Restaurant
2622 Detroit St., Portsmouth
Responsible for wine program: Sydney Meers, chef/owner
Total wine selections: 220
Virginia wine selections: 5
Wines by the glass: 15
Of note: Riedel stemware; 800-bottle, temperature-controlled cellar; frequent wine dinners; wine club —Sydney Meers, chef/owner

Swan Terrace at The Founders Inn & Spa
5641 Indian River Rd.,
Virginia Beach
Responsible for wine program: Cordel Cephas, wine director
Total wine selections: 182
Virginia wine selections: 15
Wines by the glass: 50
Of note: "We hold wine dinners throughout the year and have a chef's table available where multiple food courses are paired with wines." —Cordel Cephas, wine director

3102 Holly Rd., Virginia Beach
Responsible for wine program: Brian Williams, sommelier and managing partner
Total wine selections: 98
Virginia wine selections: 4
Wines by the glass: 15
Of note: "A succinct but well-executed wine list offering a varying assortment of varietals and price points; something for everyone." —Critic's

Todd Jurich's Bistro
150 W. Main St., Norfolk
Responsible for wine program: Todd Horden, wine steward and general manager
Total wine selections: 400
Virginia wine selections: 0
Wines by glass: 22
Of note: Climate-controlled, 5,000-bottle, glass-enclosed cuvee with private wine lockers; Reidel and Eische stemware for all glass and bottle pours. —Todd Horden, wine steward, general manager

The Trellis
403 Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg
Responsible for wine program: John Morris, director of beverage
Total wine selections: 200
Virginia wine selections: 25
Wines by the glass: 41
Of note: "The Trellis continues in the right direction with a wonderful selection of wines to pair with their contemporary, seasonal cuisine. The annual barrel-tasting dinner is legendary and a tribute to their commitment to Virginia juice." —Critic's comment

Vintage Tavern
1900 Governor's Pointe Dr., Suffolk
Responsible for wine program: Cindy McGann, sommelier and co-owner
Total wine selections: 425
Virginia wine selections: 6
Wines by the glass: 20
Of note: Stolze stemware; wine locker program; wine-to-go program —Cindy McGann, sommelier and co-owner

Zoe's Restaurant
713 19th St., Virginia Beach
Responsible for wine program: Marc Sauter, sommeliernd co-owner
Total wine selections: 300
Virginia wine selections: 25
Wines by the glass: 45, plus 50 dessert wines by the glass
Of note: "Every month we have wine dinners that range from $49 to $1,000 per person, and we try to feature owner and/or winemaker wine dinners. We also have monthly wine-buying tastings for $10 per person ... and teach three-hour wine classes every other month to the public." —Marc Sauter, sommelier and co-owner

Stellar Cellar Award Winners, A-Z

Bardo Edibles + Elixirs
430 W. 21st St., Norfolk
Of note: Ever-changing wine list, reprinted every month

Gold Level Winner

Berrets Seafood Restaurant
199 S. Boundary St., Williamsburg
Of note: Ten Virginia wines by the glass

Gold Level Winner

The Blue Point
1240 Duck Rd., Duck, N.C.
Of note: Winemaker dinners offered with specially-crafted food pairings

Gold Level Winner

Burtons Grill
741 First Colonial Rd.,
Virginia Beach

Of note: Occasional wine dinners, including wine dinners paired with gluten-free menu selections; participant in Virginia Beach Wine Week

Gold Level Winner

Catch 31
Inside the Hilton
Virginia Beach Oceanfront
3001 Atlantic Ave.,
Virginia Beach
Of note: Frequent wine dinners; participant in Virginia Beach Wine Week

Gold Level Winner

The City Dock
Inside the Sheraton
Norfolk Waterside
777 Waterside Dr., Norfolk
Of note: Wine Savvy Class hosted weekly by sommelier Joshua Haugh; weekly complimentary wine tastings on Wednesdays

Gold Level Winner

Croc's Eco Bistro
620 19th St., Virginia Beach
Of note: Frequent wine dinners; biodynamic wines; co-owner Laura Habr is a leader in Virginia Beach Wine Week

Gold Level Winner

Fire & Vine
1556 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach
Of note: Wine Socials for patrons every other month; Bottomless Wednesdays wine tastings at the bar

Gold Level Winner

Havana at Red Mill
1169 Nimmo Pkwy., Virginia Beach
Of note: A total of 90 wine selections, with 10 offered by the glass

Silver Level Winner

La Marinella
2105 W. Great Neck Rd.,
Virginia Beach
Of note: Monthly wine
dinners begin in fall 2010

Silver Level Winner

Lynnhaven Fish House Restaurant
2350 Starfish Rd., Virginia Beach
Of note: All wines sold by the glass are available for tasting

Silver Level Winner

Mahi Mah's Seafood Restaurant
615 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach
Of note: Riedel Vinum
Reserve glasses and decanters

Gold Level Winner

McCormick & Schmick's
Seafood Restaurant
Town Center of Virginia Beach
211 Market St., Virginia Beach
Of note: Rotating wine flights offered with three selections
per flight

Gold Level Winner

No Frill Grill - Norfolk
806 Spotswood Ave., Norfolk
Of note: Of 24 wine selections, 23 are offered by the glass

Gold Level Winner

No Frill Grill – Virginia Beach
1620 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach
Of note: All wines are available by the glass, and featured wines rotate each week

Gold Level Winner

Passion the Restaurant
1036 Volvo Pkwy., Chesapeake
Of note: Wine dinners, tastings and cooking classes are
offered to patrons

Silver Level Winner

Primo 116
116 W. Washington St., Suffolk
Of note: Wine-by-the-glass
selections are served in
quartinos, which constitute
one-third of a 750ml bottle

Silver Level Winner

Rockafeller's Restaurant
308 Mediterranean Ave.,
Virginia Beach
Of note: The wine list includes easy-to-follow wine descriptions to assist customers with pairings

Silver Level Winner

Riverwalk Restaurant
323 Water St., Yorktown
Of note: Wine dinners and wine tastings are held monthly

Gold Level Winner

Sushi Aka
239 W. Washington St., Suffolk
Of note: An extensive
selection of sake augments
vinifera wine offerings

Silver Level Winner

Surf Club Ocean Grille
Inside the Wyndham Virginia Beach
5700 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach
Of note: 998 bottle capacity wine rack; temperature-controlled storeroom; inventory of 2,200-plus bottles

Gold Level Winner

205 23rd St., Virginia Beach
Of note: Extensive staff training; servers and managers taken to California for winery tastings and classes; staff also sent to local wine events for education

Gold Level Winner