National Accolades For Island Wine Lists

If, like me, you are fanatical about finding not only great food but also great wine, you’ll be pleased to hear that Wine Spectator has just released its 2014 Dining Guide. It includes many in the state of Hawaii.

I spoke to Gillian Sciaretta, Wine Spectator‘s Restaurant Awards manager, to get a better idea of what this list encompasses.

As its website details, “Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Wine List Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. To qualify for an award, the list must present complete, accurate wine information. It must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines available by the glass. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, while the overall presentation and appearance of the list is also taken into consideration. After meeting these basic requirements, lists are judged for one of our three awards.

“Award of Excellence (2,791 winners this year) is our first-level award, for lists that offer a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Typically, these lists offer at least 100 selections.

“The Best of Award of Excellence (with 883 winners) is our second-tier award, created to give special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. These lists typically offer 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions.

“The Grand Award (only 74 winners in 2014) is our highest award, given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine program. These restaurants typically offer 1,500 selections or more, and feature serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu and superior organization, presentation and wine service.”

The awards are open to any restaurant that is willing to submit the proper forms and documents. It is not a complete listing or rating of all the restaurants in the U.S., but it is definitely a good start. In Hawaii, we had a total of 41 restaurants win awards this year. All but five received the Award of Excellence. The other five received the Best Award of Excellence, and those five deserve special mention: Castaway Café, Nick’s Fishmarket, Longhi’s in Lahaina and Wailea all reside on the island of Maui. Right on, Maui! On Oahu, La Mer at Halekulani was the lone Best Award winner. No Grand Award winners in Hawaii yet. For the full list, go online to

There are some Hawaii restaurants I certainly can recommend that were not included on this: Hiroshi/Vino at Restaurant Row for the breadth, quality, pricing and its diversity; Nanzan Giro Giro for its adaptability with the cuisine and fair pricing, and Vintage Cave for its impressive depth and quality.

Sciaretta mentions that the number of awarded restaurants in Hawaii has steadily crept up over several years. I do believe that we will one day have someone who wins a Grand Award, which truly will be a great accomplishment.
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