“It's not the top 100 wine lists, wine programs or wine directors — it takes into account the food, atmosphere, service and overall ‘je ne sais quoi’ in terms of how happy wine lovers will be there,” said Nils Bernstein, food editor at Wine Enthusiast, in describing the honor.
The list is compiled throughout the year via suggestions from editors, friends and colleagues. Bernstein said that every restaurant on the list uses wine as an integral part of the dining experience — whether it’s an encyclopedic wine list, or taking a creative approach to food and wine pairing.
Ember, located in a 3,500-square-foot building at 1200 East Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande, features an open kitchen, wood-burning oven and a rotisserie grill. The restaurant offers food with Mediterranean influences, rustic Italian, French, Spanish and Greek dishes with main courses ranging from $17-$41. Chef and owner Brian Collins creates a new seasonally inspired menu each month.
Ember has an extensive wine list with a focus on local wineries. Collins and Robert Wyngard, sommelier and wine buyer, have created a wine program that includes staff training and education, wine and food pairing. They regularly rotate the wine list.
“We really put a conscious effort into our wine list and wine program and to be recognized for that at a national level is very cool,” Collins said.
Much of the restaurant’s business comes from tourists heading through wine country; Collins has seen an increase in the “wine crowd” since it was named on the list.
The restaurant is adding an outdoor patio and garden area for additional seating options or an events space.
Foremost Wine Co., which opened its doors in November 2014, features a restaurant, lounge wine bar, wine shop and a horseshoe-shaped bar area serving burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.
The 5,000 square-foot restaurant at 570 Higuera St. in The Creamery is owned by local winegrape grower Rob Murray. He owns Mossfire Ranch in San Miguel, Murmur Vineyards in Santa Maria and Tolliver Ranch in Paso Robles.
Chef Julie Simon sources local products, purchases whole animals and fish whenever possible and uses every part of the animal. Prices for small plates range from $9 to $20 and large plates range from $26 to $45.
“That two restaurants in our area have that award is great. We feel really honored. We have a really great chef, and she’s doing some incredible things in the kitchen right now,” Murray said. Since being named on the list the restaurant has gotten busier, in particular with foodies from out of the area coming to San Luis Obispo for a meal.
Murray frequently rotates the Foremost wine menu; he looks for different wines from out of the area, international wines or uncommon local wines.