Restaurants have come and gone in the last quarter century, but there’s a spirit that’s consistent in the ones we love best. They are welcoming and warm, with a careful selection of food and wine that makes us want to return again and again.
This is an issue dedicated to wine and food in the places we most enjoy it, an issue we’ve published since 1989. That was when, after having worked for Wine & Spirits for five years, I purchased the magazine and set out to make it my own. A friend, Ward Wilson, was working at Opinion Research at the time, and we talked about putting together a research project on fine wine. Zagat was the restaurant app of the moment, and each of their little red books kicked off with a list of the 40 Most Popular Restaurants in the local market. Zagat covered about 40 cities back then, so we put together a list of those 1,600 restaurants and sent them a survey form, asking their wine directors to list the ten best-selling wines in the fourth quarter of the year. We added a few questions to parse the data in useful ways, then started compiling a database.
Twenty-five years later, some of the most popular wines of 1989 are still at the top of the list, while others have fallen off or disappeared. Zagat is now owned by Google, and many tech companies are providing robust inventory management systems that link once rather low-tech, personal food and wine businesses to massive databases. Eventually, their information resources will be able to provide data parallel to our Restaurant Poll, but in the meantime, we have stubbornly held to our original strategy, which allows us to compare trends and tastes across a quarter century of wine. We are already planning new strategies for our next 25 years, focusing on what makes this an exciting project for us: listening to the leaders in restaurant wine sales, catching sight of trends long before they go viral.
You’ll find glimmers of those trends in the sheer number of great new wine lists emerging in cities and small towns across the country. We cover some of the most notable new openings in this issue, particularly in New York City, where Executive Editor Tara Q. Thomas assembled a team to report on the city’s most exciting new destinations.
In this issue, you’ll also find perspectives from sommeliers who earned their Master diploma in 1989. And a brilliant interview with Randall Grahm and Ceri Smith on Tuscan wines in restaurants. This is the largest and most ambitious issue we’ve put out in many years, and I’m grateful to all the contributors who helped make it happen. I hope you enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. Welcome to our 25th Anniversary Restaurant Issue.
This story appears in the print issue of April 2014.
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