No matter how much of a wine-loving traveler you are—you love nothing more than a tasting room, you have nightmares about the spit bucket scene from Sideways—probably your primary place to experience wine is in restaurants.
And let’s face it: restaurant wine lists are tricky. And expensive. I’ve never understood why restaurateurs find it so difficult to put reasonably priced wines on their lists. Even accounting for a big markup (often 3x the wholesale price), there should still be some room for good, inexpensive wine.
Which is why I was so delighted to see the wine list at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, New Jersey. The new restaurant, housed in an incredible old mansion, has a lot going for it, including great food and beautiful design, but my eye immediately went to the wine list and a delightful section called 50 Under $50.
Wine lovers, rejoice.
The guy behind the list is Chris Cannon, who used to run Alto and Marea, among other places in New York City. As founder and partner in Jockey Hollow, he’s bringing his patented smarts to the ritzy New Jersey suburbs.
Mostly European, with an emphasis on Italy—Cannon’s great passion—the 50 Under $50 section manages to hit California and Oregon, too. There’s a cool Lambrusco from Ca’ Montanari (fruity red sparkler!) for $48, a crisp white Bordeaux (a mix of the grapes Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc) from Chateau Haut Rian for $48, and a nifty Piedmontese Nebbiolo from Sandro Fay for $44.
“As a consumer, I find it annoying to peruse a list where every wine but three or four are over $100,” Cannon tells me. “I believe it’s the job of a sommelier to guide customers towards new experiences and towards value.”
He adds, “Food and wine taste better when you don't have to take a mortgage out to pay for your meal.”
I could not have said it better myself.
Ted Loos is Travel + Leisure’s Wine and Spirits Contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @looslips.