By Rick Riozza

Our local valley restaurants finally have some wonderful news to share as they open for business:  Close to 20 restaurants, eateries, and culinary venues have earned the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for their respective wine programs and wine list.  This is the news our wine community is so happy to hear!

“Restaurants were put to the test this year. Many were forced to pivot, reinvent, or reimagine their business entirely. Some were unable to endure. But the owners of those who did are now grateful for the opportunity to do what they do best again: offer great food, wine and memories.” as recently declared by the famed publication.

Despite the challenges, more than 2,900 restaurants have earned Restaurant Awards from Wine Spectator in 2021. Winners represent all 50 states and 72 countries and territories. The awards are given across three categories: Award of Excellence, Best of Award of Excellence and Grand Award.


“Winning a Restaurant Award from Wine Spectator means that you are in the company of the world’s greatest beverage programs,” said Zachary Kameron, wine director of new Best of Award of Excellence winner Peak in New York. “For me personally, it means validation for all of the overnights, marathon stocking sessions, tirelessly poring over distributor inventories and offerings, and all of the other efforts that go into putting a wine program together.”

The Award of Excellence is given to restaurants with thoughtfully chosen selections appropriate for the cuisine and representative of a range of regions and styles. These lists can vary in size but typically offer 90 options or more. This year 1,673 restaurants earned the Award of Excellence.

Since 1981, Wine Spectator has been giving awards to restaurants with excellent wine programs. This year they write, “Every wine list tells a story, and like life, it evolves over time.”

The publication continues, “Representing everything from neighborhood wine bars serving small plates to opulent palaces with star chefs and elaborate tasting menus, the just-revealed 2021 Restaurant Award winners all share one thing—a passion for exploring and sharing the world of wine, whether through eclectic flights with a sense of fun or cellars laden with well-aged gems from Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Now I don’t have to remind us foodie enthusiasts that putting together such an impressive program takes time, and, especially money. It’s a brave group that takes on this endeavor.  And we hope to show our appreciation to these establishments, and other eateries and restaurants that devote time, funding, and consideration in their wine lists.

Wine Spectator‘s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. To qualify for an award, a wine list must present complete, accurate information, including vintages and appellations for all selections. Complete producer names are mandatory, and the overall presentation of the list is also considered.

Award of Excellence: These wine lists, which offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Whether compact or extensive, focused, or diverse, these lists deliver sufficient choice to satisfy discerning wine lovers.

And now—let’s name a few of our valley winners so we can congratulate them by a visitation. You know they are very proud of the accomplishment and I’m certain that they will appreciate your wine interests and show you their collection, if there is time to do so. Of course, sitting for a meal and ordering up a nice bottle of wine is the supreme compliment.

First off, let me congratulate, again for yet another Best of Award of Excellence year, restaurateur Mindy Reed, owner and beverage director at one of Palm Springs iconic restaurants, Zin American Bistro.  I’ve known Mindy for some time now and respect her wine knowledge; I featured her in a past Tasting Panel Magazine article, which is posted on her website.

Besides the fine dining and patio joie de vivre in the heart of downtown, I’ve enjoyed so many fantastic wine pairing dinners and I’ve met a variety of winemakers who love coming into our town. 198 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

Another shout-out is to congratulate one of the newer restaurants in town that opened just before the pandemic and unfortunately felt the brunt of the layover is Eddie V’s Prime Seafoood.  73040 El Paseo Palm Desert 760.340.9455.  We’ve enjoyed their delicious seafood and have had some fun times at happy hour at their spacious bar.

It’s great to see Trio Restaurant as an Award recipient again. One could easily forget about their wine program with all of the happy hour cocktails going on, but when was the last time you checked out their wine list. They have so many wines by the glass or bottle at the best prices to match all of the weekday specials and three course prix fixe meals.

Allow me to repeat: The wine prices here (and the cocktail prices as well) at Trio’s are probably the lowest in town. This is not only the place “where Palm Springs eats” but probably “where Palm Springs drinks”. 707 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

It’s interesting to note that three dinner restaurants in our valley’s casino have also won the Award of Excellence: Cielo at the Morongo Casino & Resort Spa, and at both locations of The Steakhouse, Spa Resort Casino and Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

And of course, we always wish to keep in mind the wonderful restaurants about town who are also Award of Excellence winners such as Bellatrix, Mitch’s On El Paseo, Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, Vue Grille and Bar, Mastro’s Steakhouse, and Spenser’s Restaurant. No doubt, some of these fine eateries are on your favorite list. Bon Appétit & Cheers!