Oak Grill: Where California Wines Star

The wine list at Oak Grill, The Island Hotel’s newly renovated dining space, is an impressive collection of 50 California wines by the glass, organized by varietal. General manager and sommelier, Miguel Rodriguez-Vidal, hand picks wines from producers whose names you have undoubtedly heard before, with an emphasis on popular varietals, such as chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

The by-the-glass list doesn’t break new ground, although there are a few options listed under “Interesting Whites and Interesting Reds.” It’s appropriate that the list is California-oriented, as this is clearly a California restaurant in menu design and ambience.

Wines by the glass range from $12 to $45, with several special reds from Shafer, Justin, Merryvale, and Plumpjack in the expensive category. It’s comforting to know wines $30 and up are preserved with the new Coravin argon system to insure their freshness. I was glad this list also includes one of my favorite whites, the 2013 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier. But at $12, the price is Newport Beach-steep, considering you could almost buy a bottle at retail for this price.

The full wine list is sizeable, including 27 wines by the half bottle. Also offered are 20 Champagnes, 7 sparkling wines, 15 chardonnays, and 60 cabernet sauvignons, as well as a few carefully chosen special bottles from Italy, Spain, and Bordeaux, France, which range in price from $36 to $4,500.

The emphasis on hearty reds, including cabernet sauvignons, is meant to appeal to the well healed, but there are few items on the menu that pair successfully with them. At lunch, the butcher’s burger is the best choice, and at dinner, only the grilled pork chop, the braised short ribs, and the two steaks would make your favorite cab sing.

Appropriate stemware is offered, including a white wine glass and a somewhat larger red wine stem, and wines are served at the appropriate temperature. Waiters are not particularly wine savvy, but one can look to the sommelier for assistance. Corkage is $30.

3 bottles

Check back for Gretchen Kurz’s dining review from our December issue!

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