BEST WINE LIST Minneapolis 2005 - W.A. Frost & Company
Are wine lists like gardens? If you really care about them, yes. There's the list at Manny's steakhouse, which is kind of like nothing but prize-winning super dahlias and hybrid roses the size of your head, the one garden you'd want to go to if you were taking pictures to surprise the folks back home. There's the list at the Modern, which is like a small cottage garden seen in glorious bloom: Every plant in it has been picked by the deep love of the gardener, according to the strength of the individual plant. There's the endless lists at Fhima or Louis XIII, which are like going to the biggest garden center in the state: options both weak and strong stretch past the limits of the human eye. Then there's the Spanish glory of the list at Solera, which is like a comprehensive garden of a single flower, a rose garden, say. Would you ask a gardener to choose between all of these magical incarnations? You would? Rats. In that case, we're forced to pick the wine list on offer these days at Frost, which pulls off the neat trick of being both very, very big (around 900 choices) and very, very focused. How can that be? Well, let's consider their sparkling list. It's not just almost 60 bottles long, oh no. Those 50-plus bottles are just the start. In that list, you'll find the best French Champagne producers, and within those showcased, particularly excellent but lesser known, and thus lesser priced, vintners, like Egly-Ouriet and Nicolas Feuillatte. Second, it winnows our absolute favorite American sparkling producers, like Schramsberg, S. Anderson, and Roederer, presenting a number of vintage bottles that you'd never find anywhere else. It has a special section of half-bottles of bubbly, for couples wishing to kick things off in style before moving into the big red part of their meal, which is how many, many real wine drinkers drink. Finally, this sparkling list splits out a number of under-$40 choices (as it does in every wine category) serving the way people really drink wine at dinner--by excellence, mediated through price. We could deconstruct every section of this lengthy, and glorious, list just as completely: Be it California Cabernets, French northern Rhône, or Oregon Pinot Noirs, W. A. Frost's list is like a trip to a well-funded, well-loved botanic garden, one where you walk down a path and find individual garden after individual garden, each arranged on a theme, each stocked with so many blooms both stately and giddy that you are forced to freeze in your tracks and admire the magnificence. Hats off, then, to general manager Bob Crew, a genius with a wine list, and one hell of a gardener.