Restaurants have faced an exceptionally challenging past year and a half, but the prestigious annual Wine Spectator Awards aim to recognize those in the industry that have excelled in their wine programs in spite of these tough times. More than 2,900 restaurant recipients from across the United States and over 70 countries were announced in the August 31st issue of Wine Spectator magazine, “honored for their dedication to wine.” Among the winners are 72 New Jersey spots, including four outstanding restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City. Read on to learn more about the local Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants and their acclaimed wine programs.
Court Street Restaurant & Bar | 61 Sixth Street
(Photo credit: @courtsthoboken)
Court Street has been a beloved neighborhood spot since its opening in 1981 and has been a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award recipient for the past two decades. Originally an Award of Excellence winner, Court Street rose to the more selective Best of Award of Excellence level in 2016 when wine director Arthur Neff came on board.
The restaurant serves a menu of seafood and American cuisine and hosts two weekly signature specials; prime rib on Monday nights, and a Wednesday Lobster Fest. When it comes to the wines that pair with the meals, Court Street offers a wide-ranging selection in both price and flavor. While the wine list is weighted in California Cabernets, Italian reds, and French reds and whites, the restaurant’s goal, as wine director Arthur Neff describes, is “to have wines for everyone.”
Another focus of Court Street’s award-winning wine program is its dedication to the customer. Arthur and restaurant owner Kevin Cocca agree that the guests drive the wine offerings, which include customer picks. Prior to the pandemic, and hopefully soon to return, the restaurant also hosted wine tastings twice a month, often with themes, such as women winemakers. Guests would sample ten wines over the course of the two-hour event, influencing the bottles that would then be added to Court Street’s wine list. “From entry-level wine drinkers who’ve never swirled wine in their glass to the people that have been drinking wine for their entire life,” Arthur emphasizes that “a big part of the wine list and the wine program at Court Street is also to make it fun and educational.”
Del Frisco’s Grille | 221 River Street
(Photo credit: @dfgrille)
This waterfront location has been a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence pick since 2016, serving an upscale steakhouse-style menu alongside its esteemed wine selection. As described on Del Frisco’s website, the restaurant’s cuisine takes “inspiration from bold flavors and market-fresh ingredients,” offering brunch, lunch, and dinner.
Del Frisco’s wine program is strong in California selections, with moderate price points, according to Wine Spectator. With 315 selections, as noted by the magazine, there’s sure to be a wine suited for every diner’s palate and plate.
Sorellina Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar | 1036 Washington Street
(Photo credit: @sorellinahoboken)
Lovers of Italian wine and food will rejoice in Sorellina’s authentic menu. The Italian kitchen and wine bar has been an Award of Excellence recipient since 2017, standing out for its exclusively Italian wine list, which showcases almost every distinct region of the country. Making the restaurant’s wine program even more exemplary, Sorellina also pours its own label of wine produced through a partnership with the Fontezoppa winery in Italy’s Marche region.
Sorellina’s owner, certified sommelier Gabi Lombardi, goes above and beyond when curating the Wine Spectator-recognized wine program. From tasting each wine before it joins the menu, to personally traveling to Italy on numerous occasions over the past several years to visit the vineyards and estates along with the people who make the wines patrons find on Sorellina’s wine list, Gabi is passionate about bringing true Italian culture and product to the restaurant. “By offering a uniquely all-Italian wine list, we encourage guests to try something new and we strive to educate our guests on what they are drinking and where it comes from,” Gabi says.
If you’re planning to enjoy a meal at this piece-of-Italy in Hoboken, Gabi recommends a bubbly Italian “champagne” with a selection of cheeses, salumi, and fried arancini, or Sorellina’s famous Cacio e Pepe Conchiglie while sipping a glass of Casale del Giglio Bellone.
Battello | 502 Washington Boulevard
(Photo credit: @battellojc)
This refined Hudson-river-facing Jersey City restaurant is no stranger to Wine Spectator recognition. Battello was first honored by the magazine in its opening year in 2014, and it has received the Award of Excellence annually since, with the exception of 2017 and 2018 when the restaurant was forced to close for a 17-month period due to the landlord’s pier repairs.
Battello serves up Italian flavors and seafood dishes, and there’s something on the wine list for every palate. There are several aspects of Battello’s wine program that set it apart, says owner and wine director Cory Checket. A lower than average markup encourages guests to try something new at a generous price point, while various bottle formats including magnum and half bottles cater to different sized groups or those who want to pair separate wines with each course.
Battello also prides itself on a diverse selection. This includes wines with significant age, like vintages dating back to the 1980s; wines from organic producers and family-owned wineries; as well as wines from across the map. While much of the restaurant’s wine list consists of libations from Italy, France, and California, Cory also sources picks from New York State, Switzerland, Lebanon, Austria, and Greece. “Wine is made in so many corners of our planet and I try to have as many different regions and styles available for any taste,” he says.
Guests at Battello can expect to be given the wine list on an iPad, which acts as a digital sommelier, narrowing down the extensive selection by a customer’s individual tastes and budget. Of course, Cory and the rest of the staff are available to help diners choose a wine they’ll love. As for Cory’s current personal favorite wine and food pairing, he recommends a 2010 Crissante Alessandria Roggeri Barolo with the chef’s homemade Semolina Cavatelli.