Five local establishments have been included in Wine Spectator magazine’s 2014 Restaurant Awards. The annual list, which has been issued every year since 1981, recognizes eateries around the globe that offer the best wine selections. Eno Terra, elements, Witherspoon Grill, Salt Creek Grille, and the Peacock Inn made the list this year.
“It’s a huge deal to us,” said Barry Sussman, owner of the Peacock Inn, which has been included for three of the four years the restaurant has operated under his management. “It shows we have one of the top wine lists in the country, and it’s an honor to be associated with that kind of company.”
To score a spot on the Wine Spectator list, a restaurant is scrutinized for the entire dining experience, including its wine program, cellar selection, service, ambience, and food. Awards are given at three levels.
“We have an online posted set of criteria for what we look for,” said Gillian Sciaretta, restaurant awards manager at the magazine. “Our fundamental requirements for each wine at the very minimum require 90 or more selections. Each has to be the correct appellation given, along with vintage. This goes for wines by the glass as well.”
Presentation is just as important, Ms. Sciaretta said. While the magazine’s representatives can’t visit each of the restaurants from the United States and more than 80 other countries and territories, they make their selections by viewing websites and cover letters. “We ask them to tell us in depth about what their service is like, what stemware is used, how they maintain inventory, and whatever gives us the best background to their wine program.”
From there, she continued, “We review the list, make sure they meet the requirements, and get a sense of whether [the wine] meshes well with the food menu. Are there thoughtful selections? Maintaining a wine program, even a 60-selection list — just keeping it up to date — is very challenging.”
While the selection team did not visit the Princeton restaurants that made the list, “I have heard of elements,” Ms. Sciaretta said. “I have a few friends who went to Princeton and they spoke highly of it.”
Anthony Momo, general manager of Eno Terra, said the award is important. “We read the magazine here and we were pleased to get the award of excellence,” he said. “We obviously work hard at introducing unique wines. We have about 400 on our list right now, and a few thousand in inventory. We rotate depending on the season.”
This year, 3,748 restaurants were named award winners. The magazine is now on the stands. In addition to the Princeton restaurants on the list, Wine Spectator also named Diamond’s of Pennington and Catherine Lombardi of New Brunswick as award winners.
The magazine takes suggestions from readers in searching out establishments that make the cut. “It’s guiding our readers to restaurants that meet our criteria and consistent standards,” Ms. Sciaretta said.