No system of awards and ratings for restaurants can ever be perfect. From Zagat to Michelin to the James Beard Awards, they've all got their own way of doing things that any number of people can object to. Having said that, it's clear that all award systems are not created equal.
You'll often find me criticizing the Wine Spectator for this or that, and while I've often wondered exactly what goes into their restaurant awards (my Dining Issue just appeared in the mailbox recently) I haven't lost much sleep over it. Not so for Mark Fisher of the Dayton Daily news. It seems he likes to read the fine print, and he's not only giving me a reprieve from my usual role as Spectator basher, he's done one better. He's got the editor and publisher Marvin Shanken in a heated discussion about the validity of and criteria for their restaurant awards.
I must admit, I've been to more than a few restaurants that have had Wine Spectator awards, even Grand Awards, and I've always marveled that some of them possess the most boring wine lists I've ever seen, albeit with a number of very expensive bottles from California. Not to mention the fact that many of them have average food, mediocre service, and sometimes very un-knowledgeable staff when it comes to wine.
This is because the Wine Spectator Dining awards have nothing to do with food or service or atmosphere or ingredients or anything like that. They merely evaluate the wine list (with some examination of the printed menu to evaluate whether the wines on the list are appropriate for the food).
Mark has laid into the Spectator with a post today, expressing outrage at the fact that the Spectator doesn't even visit most of the restaurants that it gives awards to. It just accepts their $250 entry fee, a copy of their menu and a copy of their wine list.
Anyone who has sat in a restaurant scratching their heads about why a list that has 12 vintages of Far Niente on the list along with a few other big names got an award might be interested in the exchange between Shanken and Fisher.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries Vinography Images: Vineyard Reflections The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast Vinography Images: Shaggy Companions 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting: October 26, Healdsburg
Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 KirÃ¡lyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy