Wine Takes Center Stage at The Winery Newport Beach

With a name like The Winery, one expects wine to be a highlight of the dining experience, and this Newport Beach restaurant not only delivers, it dazzles.

After you’re ushered into this glamorous dining venue by a properly suited host, you must traverse a hallway lined on one side by dozens of personal wine lockers, where owners’ iconic bottles are displayed to show their good taste. Once inside, your eyes are drawn to a two-story glass-enclosed and temperature-controlled wine cellar with a 6,000-bottle capacity. When you arrive at your table, which is already set with very stylish stemware, and are handed the 21-page, 3-ring binder containing the 650 wine selections, you have been suitably prepped for the experience to follow.

The floor is staffed by several sommeliers at various levels of certification, but even the waiters and captains are well versed in wine and wine service. This has to be the most impressive army of wine-knowledgeable people at any restaurant in Orange County.

Certainly the wine list is both daunting and extravagant, with 35 dry wines and 16 sweet wines by the glass, 24 half bottles, and pages of red wine-dominated choices. Although Spain, Italy, the Southern Hemisphere, and France are represented among the serious red wine options, California cabernet sauvignon, specifically Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, occupying 4-plus pages and including a dozen magnums, is clearly the focus. All the sought-after and highly rated Napa labels are represented, including splurges like Screaming Eagle.

Cabernet sauvignon is a meat lover’s catnip, and the menu delivers many suitable complements that included, when I visited, a man-sized bone-in rib eye, and a hearty venison chop (yum!). Seafood options are plentiful as well, and the wine list offers many suitable white wines, including 38 chardonnays.

Wine markups are standard for a restaurant with this caliber cellar and service, and this includes some cult wines that are, not surprisingly, very expensive. Corkage is $25.

4 bottles

Editor’s Note: Rusty Gaffney, one half of Orange Coast’s Wine Dudes blog, critiques the wine program of an Orange County restaurant reviewed in print each month by the magazine’s dining critic Gretchen Kurz. He’ll use the same star system as Kurz’s restaurant reviews (using wine bottles in place of stars) to denote whether the program is (1) Good, (2) Very Good, (3) Excellent, or (4) Outstanding on every level. He’ll also denote pricing: $ mostly under $24; $$, under $50; $$$, $50 and over. Above is his wine program review of The Winery in Newport Beach; click here for the dining review.

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