It’s not unusual for an Italian restaurant to offer Italian wines, but at Lupo Italian Kitchen in Rehoboth Beach, nearly all wine on the list comes from that country.
(Two dessert wines are from Portugal.)
The carefully cultivated list is one reason why Lupo Italian Kitchen is one of nine Delaware establishments receiving the Wine Spectator’s 2022 Award of Excellence, which honors the world’s best restaurants for wine.
This year, the program recognized 3,169 dining destinations from all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries.
Award-winner Lupo Italian Kitchen is part of Rehoboth Beach-based SoDel Concepts, whose Bluecoast Seafood Grills in Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach and Catch 54 in Fenwick Island also made the Delaware list.
The five other recipients include Benvenuto Restaurant in Milford; Blue Moon and Eden in Rehoboth Beach; and Churrascaria Saudades and Caffe Gelato in Newark.
“These awards not only guide our readers to dining establishments with impressive wine lists and outstanding service but also serve to honor restaurants for their achievements and commitment to maintaining pristine cellars,” said Marvin R. Shanken, Wine Spectator editor and publisher, in a news release. “We are thrilled to reveal our 2022 Dining Guide, which points to places where wine drinkers are warmly welcomed.”
SoDel Concepts’ restaurants have received the Wine Spectator designation for four consecutive years. In Newark, Caffe Gelato is celebrating its 18th win.
“It’s nice to be recognized as a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner in Delaware,” said owner Ryan German. “Caffe Gelato’s current wine list has 45 wines rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator and 14 Top 100 Wine Spectator wines.”
The Main Street restaurant’s cellar has 157 wines, excluding port, and offers more than 40 wines by the glass.
Benvenuto, meanwhile, is new to the list of Delaware award winners.
“It is an incredible honor to have received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for several reasons,” said Diego Lascano, the sommelier who oversees the restaurant’s beverage program. “We are a fairly new restaurant that wants to be known not only for the quality of our food but also for the beautiful selection of wines on our list.”
A Rigorous Application Process
Restaurants seeking the designation must apply. “There is a whole list of stipulations,” explained Mike Zygmonski, the director of SoDel Concept’s wine program and a certified sommelier.
Wine lists must have a uniform appearance. For instance, Lupo’s list notes each selection’s winery, region and vintage.
But that’s not to say they need to follow a set pattern. Blue Moon, for example, emphasizes the type of wine, such as sauvignon blanc, then lists the winery, vintage and origin. It also includes a description.
The list must also complement the restaurant’s cuisine.
“As a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, we want to showcase different varietals native to the several wine-producing regions in Italy,” Lascano said. “So, I focused on that but also wanted to showcase outstanding wines from ‘the rest of the world.’”
Lupo’s list sticks to Italy, while the Bluecoast eateries and Catch 54 lean toward French and California wines.
Stamp of Approval
For oenophiles and wine enthusiasts, receiving the award demonstrates that the restaurant is serious about its wine program.
“We take a lot of time, care and effort into curating our lists,” Zygmonski said. “Because we have a Wine Spectator award, our guests know the wines on our list are of a good quality.”
SoDel Concepts also invests in training. All new servers undergo an online Wine 100 and Wine 1010 training course, followed by a quiz.
Zygmonski and two other employees conduct on-site classes for the staff, and he holds blind-tasting classes with managers. Several managers are working toward their sommelier certification.
On the industry side, receiving the award is gratifying. “Applying for the award is definitely a personal goal as a sommelier and wine director,” Lascano said, “and earning the award itself is a dream come true that only validates that we are moving in the right direction.”
Go to restaurants.WineSpectator.com to search winners by location. The database includes the name, proximity, award level, cuisine and pricing. Winners are also profiled in the free Restaurant Awards app, available for iPhone and iPad users.
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