Crystal Springs Resort’s Restaurant Latour and its incomparable Wine Cellar, adds a new honor to its proverbial trophy case: it was recently inducted into Wine Enthusiast‘s America’s Best Wine Restaurant Hall of Fame.
Restaurant Latour is the only restaurant from New Jersey included in the newly-created Best Wine Restaurant Hall of Fame, which also boasts industry royalty like Daniel, Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern, Per Se and The French Laundry.
Earlier this year, Restaurant Latour also earned the Grand Award, which is Wine Spectator’s highest honor, something it’s held every year since 2006. Only 91 restaurants worldwide hold the distinction.
Susanne Wagner is the wine director at Crystal Springs Resort and oversees what is considered one of the finest wine collections in the country with more than 105,000 bottles.
I had an opportunity to interview Wagner recently.
JERSEY BITES: You take such pride in your cellar and wine program, what does it mean to be included in the Hall of Fame in its inception year?
SUSANNE WAGNER: To work on the wine program is a passion for most. Tasting, buying, maintaining, controlling, pairing, and selling, is what we all like to do, but to be included in the Hall of Fame is a dream come true! It’s an affirmation that we’re on the right path. Now we’re part of a group of the highest standards and with that comes the responsibility to maintain excellence.
In the last few weeks, have you uncorked a value-priced bottle that simply wowed you?
Yes, I have. Aldo Rainoldi Valtellina Superiore Grumello stood out to me. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, it’s a red wine that’s very nice this time of year. Balanced, aromatic, light and a great alternative to a pinot noir. (Editor’s note: It retails for about $14.)
At a bit higher price, Mark Ryan makes a Bordeaux blend called Numbskull from Walla Walla in Washington. I didn’t think the 2014 vintage was ready yet, but it really surprised me. It was so lush, smooth, and balanced. It could easily be a sipping wine, but it also paired exceptionally well with the Squab course on our menu. (Editor’s note: It’s about $35.)
What up-and-coming wine region should wine enthusiasts familiarize themselves with?
Central Coast of California: anywhere from Monterey County to Santa Barbara County. The quality went up, but not the price tag! Excellent blends can be found, such as VDR, Scheid Vineyards, Monterey County. Obviously, VDR stands for Very Dark Red! It’s a fun blend of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah from Hames Valley with depth and elegance.
We understand free cellar tours are offered. What can wine lovers come visit?
Every day at 3 p.m., a complimentary public cellar tour is offered to everybody who signs up for it at the hostess stand by the Crystal Tavern. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes and you get to see the Wine Cellar’s many-chambered catacombs, which hold numerous bottles of wine from top estates in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Italy, and California. Guests can also hear insider stories about wines sold, drunken, and broken in the cellar!
Can you share any new wine projects taking place at Crystal Springs that our readers would be interested in?
Organic, biodynamic, sustainable, and natural wines are on the rise. The Chef’s Garden features some organic and natural wines by the glass. At Latour, we also include natural white or red wine into the tasting menu whenever possible.
Restaurant Latour and the Wine Cellar
Crystal Springs Resort
1 Wild Turkey Way
Images courtesy of Restaurant Latour.