When considering a better bottle, a little knowledge goes a long way.
My mother always taught me that if you pay for quality, you will be handsomely rewarded. But when it comes to wine, making that judgment call can be a little tricky. How does one figure out how to step up one’s wine game without it feeling like a crapshoot? Upgrading to a higher-end bottle from a wine list can mean a significant difference in quality and your overall enjoyment of a meal, says Wynn’s Director of Wine, Mark Thomas. Some of the more well-known wine regions are a good place to start. When it comes to Bordeaux—well represented at SW Steakhouse—appellation is worth paying attention to. While all reds from Bordeaux tend to be blends of two to five kinds of red grapes, the region is basically divided by the Gironde River, so figure out which you prefer: the velvety, supple Merlot-heavy right bank or the powerful and sturdy tannins of the left’s Cabernets. Next, focus on origin, and seek out words like Premier Cru, Grand Cru Classés, or Cru Classés, which will tip you off to the best vineyards of the best châteaux. Then, of course, there’s vintage—thomas says lauded years like 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2005 are great bets. And an ’03 from right-bank Pomerol is an especially good gateway to loving Bordeaux. Any wine expert will tell you that a fine Burgundy is worth the extra investment. In spots like Lakeside and SW, Burg-hunters can find exceptional step-up options from Village (good) to Premier Cru (very good) to Grand Cru (the greatest of the great). “If you’re looking at a Village wine,” says Thomas, “then consider a Premier Cru. Then get guidance on vintage.” For lovers of Italian, and Barolo in particular, the wine lists at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and Sinatra are veritable volumes of vino. What’s in a name can take you far—and for Thomas, that means vineyards in one of the 11 communes of this Piedmont-based, red wine-centric spot. Look for designations like Cerequio, Rionda, or Le Coste, or go straight to lauded producers like Gaja. And if Chianti (e.g., the grape Sangiovese) is your passion, take a step up from Classico to Riserva, or even the vineyard-specific Superiore. Napa can be just as much of a conundrum as Chianti. But Thomas knows the map well and has stocked spots like Botero, SW, and The Country Club with incredible Napa Cabs ripe for the plucking, noting that the vineyards in mountainous Pritchard Hill are among his favorites. “That real estate up there is pretty loaded with the who’s who of wine—in name, quality, and correlating prices.” Some of his faves: Chappellet, Tim Mondavi’s Continuum, and David Arthur. Another great way to upgrade: Sample first. Thomas offers the highly allocated 2007 vintage of M by Michael Mondavi by the glass at SW Steakhouse, Dom Pérignon at the Tower Suite Bar, and flutes of Krug Grand Cuvée at Botero. La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway offers no fewer than 50 wines by the glass. And if you really want to learn more, the new ipad wine list systems at Botero, Andrea’s, and Wing Lei offer tasting notes plus lots of behind-thewine info, like the particulars of the vintage. Left to your own devices, making a good choice on a wine upgrade is a mere finger swipe away. n
Any wine expert will tell you that a great Burgundy is worth the extra investment.
Browse and discover special cuvées such as the Merlot-rich Plus de la Fleur de Boüard Bordeaux on the ipad wine lists at Andrea’s ( shown here), Wing Lei, and Botero.