BEST WINE BAR - 2002
Chiang Mai Thai
What makes a good wine bar, anyway? Well, the wine, of course. It doesn't matter how friendly the servers, how inviting the room--if there isn't some exciting, interesting wine at the end of the journey, why bother? Absurdly, that criterion actually knocks out most of our stand-alone wine bars with their god-awful, lowest-common-denominator lists. But with spectacular wine often comes spectacular pricing, so that knocks out another tier of contenders. Who's still standing? Remove that one place with the great list but condescending, obnoxious, lying, pretentious staff (you know who you are), and eliminate those places that are irredeemably smoke- and toxin-saturated. By God, here's a short list no one ever expected: The bar at Auriga, the bar at Sapor, Café Barbette, the wine bar at Zander Café, and, bafflingly, the bar at Chiang Mai Thai. With almost two-dozen glass-pours, a bunch of rare, restaurant-only allocations, and incredibly reasonable pricing, Chiang Mai Thai presents that rarest of Twin Cities occurrences: A wine list you actually get excited about taking a crack at, presented at prices that run the gamut from utterly fair to absolute bargains. Consider, then, a Trefethen 2000 riesling for $23; David Bruce 1998 pinot noir for $28; Cakebread 1998 cabernet sauvignon for $59; or a Domaine Serene 1998 Yamhill Cuvée pinot noir for $36--whoa. Logic and reason lead you to some odd places sometimes, and right now it looks like the best wine bar in the cities is the front of a Thai restaurant in the back of a mall. Go figure.