EDITOR'S NOTE - Dining out

We build our April issue around the Annual Restaurant Poll, now in its 19th year. While change in the wine business is usually a slow process, we've identified some significant shifts, particularly in data we've collected over the last ten years. America's tastes in wine and food have become more sophisticated, and the styles of wine we order off lists have broadened markedly. It's not only pinot noir that has caught the attention of wine drinkers; there are a host of light, crisp whites that have also gained traction. In the pages that follow, you'll find the results of this year's poll with intelligence about what people are drinking now in America's most popular restaurants–and several takes on what people might be drinking in the years to come.
     As pinot noir has strengthened its role on wine lists, we've made that variety a major focus of this issue's tastings. Our selection of more than 100 of the best of the year starts on page 90. While we were tasting, we asked Field Maloney to check in with a number of new winemakers who are generating a buzz on California's North Coast. Maloney, who has written for the New Yorker and the New York Times, is now based on Mount Veeder in Napa Valley, working on a book on wine in America. In visiting these cellar-rats-turned-pinot-noir-producers, Maloney found their wine style and ambitions surprisingly radical. While sensitive to the fact that many contemporary producers and wine drinkers prefer rich, full-boded pinots, they're pushing in the opposite direction–in search of sites along the far coast where the seasons give barely enough warmth to ripen the grapes–in the service of fresh, red-fruited wines. Their pinots chase the lean palate structure and firm acidities that make the variety such a great wine with food, a style that excites many of the sommeliers in our poll. Maloney's story profiles the leaders of this new generation, whose names you're likely to see on top restaurant lists in vintages to come.
     Earlier in the year, David Lynch began to hear rumblings about an identity crisis in Montalcino, one of Italy's most important red wine regions. Lynch, co-author of Vino Italiano (and, as a former managing editor of W&S, a veteran of April issue poll reporting), booked a flight to Tuscany to check in on Brunello di Montalcino, the only DOCG wine that's restricted to sangiovese, 100 percent. It's a variety that can produce a powerful wine in a great terroir, but it doesn't produce a dense, black wine. An explosion in the number of producers and their individual winemaking styles has created a disconnect between what Lynch describes as "Montalcino the terroir and Montalcino the luxury brand." He interviewed some of the legendary classicists and some of the younger consulting talents to sort out where Brunello is today, and what it is that makes a great sangiovese in Montalcino.
     Closer to home, we asked Jane Sigal to investigate what makes a great American wine bar–at least, according to the top chefs behind some of the most recent openings. And while providing his list of the latest in cocktail destinations, Jordan Mackay advises how to safely order a drink from one of the wizards of extreme mixology.