We’re lucky this week to have a guest post from Elizabeth, the wine diva of the blog Wine for Normal People. Her blog is great — demystifying reds, whites, and rosès with a discerning palette and a sharp wit. Elizabeth is from Atlanta and has offered to give us a virtual tour of the best spots for wine in a city that isn’t known for its oenophilia.
Heading to the ATL? Avoid Lame Wine Lists and Get to Ecco …
There are a few major cities in the United States that are great for wine – San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Boston immediately come to mind. But there are many more towns where wine seems like an afterthought to the food, or the wine list is so mainstream that its not any fun.
My hometown of Atlanta falls squarely in that group. The problem is that in most cases the wine selection is either a lame attempt at seeming esoteric or just a “greatest hits” of large suppliers (I worked for a big wine empire for a while, so I know how this works — $$ talks). So if you’re traveling to the ATL for business, you may have to adjust your expectations for an awesome wine experience because it’s a little hard to come by.
Or you can read on…
If you’re going to meet up for a glass with a friend or business colleague, or just get out of your hotel to catch the local flavor, I’d head to Midtown and go straight to Ecco on 7th street http://ecco-atlanta.com/ . There is no other place in Atlanta with the combination of a great bar area (where the small appetizers are tasty and booths and bar space are aplenty) and a by-the-glass list that rocks out.
For the ‘safe’ drinkers, you’ll notice a few familiar friends – J. Lohr in Chard and Merlot, Liberty School Cab – but for those a little more advanced or not afraid to take a risk, the world is your molten lava cake (better than an oyster, and more decadent too). I know very few restaurants, even in great wine towns, that have wines like Qupe Marsanne, Laetitia Rosé bubbly, and a good White Bordeaux by-the-glass (BTG). The BTG reds are even better — Taz Pinot Noir, Lariat Cab, and the Crozes Hermitage are fab (they used to offer the Terlato & Chapoutier Northern Rhône style BTG too and that was a knock-out, so maybe you can sweet talk the bartender into popping it open again. Big wine, super delish). The by-the-bottle selection is even better and the prices are fair so you’ll find stuff in every range.
Another bonus: the bartenders are so fun, unpretentious, and knowledgeable that you can ask them a question without getting into a pissing match, which, for some reason, happens so frequently in the wine world and really detracts from the enjoyment of it all.
So, to summarize, the great list, good food, and fun ambiance makes Ecco the winner for a business drink in my book (and you can trust me: by day I’m marketer with an MBA and have held a few Corporate AmExes in my time… my bathroom sink was bought on points)
For those who want options… a few runners up:
Check out Parish in Inman Park http://www.parishatl.com/home.php , which has a varied list, great bartenders and a good bar for a business meeting of 2-3. This is a great local hotspot and will give you a real feel for what Atlanta’s hipper scene looks like. A few items under caveat emptor: (1) stay upstairs, the wine list downstairs is different and not up to code, in my opinion. (2) Space is limited so if you have more than 2-3 peeps I’d stick with Ecco and get a booth.
For an amazing dinner experience with an awesome list (they have a Zweigelt, for God’s sake! If you think that’s a sneeze of some sort, it’s just an Austrian grape that’s kind of like a fruity Pinot Noir with a bite) you must go to Shaun’s http://www.shaunsrestaurant.com/ . It’s off the beaten trail and delicious as can be…especially if it’s on the company dime.
Enjoy and come see me in the ATL any time!
Elizabeth, Wine For Normal People