Ann Arbor Thrives in The Wine Awards

Five Ann Arbor establishments were recognized in the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards for  2022. Each nominated restaurant offers more than 90 different selections of wine. 

Wine Spectator magazine specializes in tasting notes, industry news, and wine-personality profiles.

According to Wine Spectator, restaurants with complete and accurate wine lists which offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers are recognized for this award. 

The Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards are broken down into three tiers. 

Tier one, known as the Award of Excellence, is the lowest among the tiers. This year’s selection of award recipients showcased 1,782 winners. 

According to the website, “These wine lists, which should 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.”

Following is the second tier, the Best of Award of Excellence. 

This year highlighted 1,290 winners. 

“These wine lists display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team,” Wine Spectator said on its website.

Following the Award of Excellence is the third, and highest, tier, the Grand Award. This year saw only 97 winners of this award.

According to Wine Spectator on its website, “Our highest award, given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs. These wine lists typically feature 1,000 or more selections, and deliver a serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation. These restaurants offer the highest level of wine service.”

Ann Arbor is no stranger to the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards, with some restaurants having garnered the award for over 30 years. 

For the 2022 awards, five restaurants were selected from Ann Arbor: The Earle, The Chop House, Paesano Restaurant And Wine Bar, Weber’s Restaurant, and The Blue Llama Jazz Club. Below is a summary of each restaurant, their received tier, and an explanation of how their establishments offered different strengths to receive their award. 

The Earle

Photo Credit Antonio Cooper

The longest-tenured award recipient, having received the prestigious recognition Since 1983, The Earle restaurant has been recognized by Wine Spectator magazine for its selection of over 1,200 unique wines. This year, The Earle received the tier two Best of Award of Excellence.

When describing their selection, wine director Caitlin Buquet described their wine selection as a fun and creative wine selection process.

“We have plenty of great French and Italian selections. Much of it has to do with different components of the dish, and attributes about the wines,” Buquet said. “There’s a lot of flexibility, fun and creativity involved with it.”

The Earle possesses one of the largest wine resumes in Michigan, having around 1,100 options on their list of white wines alone.

“We’re in our 45th year and wine was an early focus of the restaurant and the previous wine director put together this really great list. But it’s exciting every year to have them recognize that we’re still putting out this great selection of wines,” Buquet said.

You can contact The Earle at 734-994-0211.

Weber’s Restaurant

Photo credit Antonio Cooper

The second longest-tenured award recipient of this year’s award, having received the award in 1984 is Weber’s Restaurant. They offer over 200 different wine selections that vary between exotic wines, sparkling, brandy, or liqueurs, often flavored with herbs. 

According to their website, their wines are uniquely suited to arouse the appetite before a meal or soothe afterward and between courses.

For the 2022 Wine Spectator award selection, Weber’s restaurant received the tier one Award of Excellence, offering comfortable wine and meal prices. Weber’s wine selections excelled by providing exceptional California and French wines. These options are in addition to their cuisine, which offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner options.

You can contact Weber’s restaurant at 734-665-3636.

Paesano Restaurant and Wine Bar

Photo credit Antonio Cooper

One of Wine Spectator’s newest selections, Paesano’s has now earned award acclaim for two years straight, first earning the award back in 2020. This year Paesano received the tier one Award of Excellence.

Paesano’s offers 95 different selections of Italian wines, but according to their website, offer additional wine services such as technical component tastings, wine education classes, and winemaker dinners.

For the wine services themselves, Paesano’s prides itself on its comprehensive wine selection. 

The biggest strength of Paesano’s is both, the aforementioned selection of Italian wines, and their inexpensive pricing. 

You can contact Paesano restaurant and wine bar at 734-971-0484.

The Chop House

Photo Credit Antonio Cooper

An Ann Arbor mainstay, The Chop House, received the tier one Award of Excellence. The Chop House began their winning streak for this award in 2020.

This restaurant is known for its premium steakhouse dinners. However, The Chop House boasts an impressive selection of over 300 different wine selections.

“If you look at our wine list in the years past, you would see very heavy California, and Cabernet options,” General Manager Xander Gudejko said. “However, what we’ve done in the past couple of years has brought a lot of balance to our list, in which people that understand wine at a high level can find something and also people that don’t understand wine could also find something.”

While The Chop House’s wine variety has changed to incorporate several options into its menu, the restaurant’s wine strengths still exist within its California wine options. 

You can contact The Chop House at 734-669-9977 or online at www.thechophouserestaurant.com.

The Blue Llama Jazz Club

Photo Credit Chuck Anderson Via Flickr
Justin’s Hot Five at the Blue Llama Jazz Club (Justin Walter (trumpet, vocals), Janelle Reichman (clarinet, vocals), Christopher Tabaczynski (C melody sax, Clarinet, vocals), Chris Smith (sousaphone), Erik McIntyre (guitar))

Known for its dining & listening experience in Ann Arbor featuring national and local performing artists, The Blue Llama Jazz Club, is recognized as the second Ann Arbor restaurant to receive the tier two Best of Award of Excellence. 

Featuring 350 wine selections, the Blue Llama Jazz Club’s true strength is the restaurant’s creativity in pairing the correct wine with its meal counterpart. This is one aspect General Manager Andy Sienkiewicz said he personally focuses on.

“We actually sell tickets that include a multi-course dinner. So I will sit down ahead of time with our chef, taste through the menu to pick out the wine’s I believe would pair well with the dinner.”  Sienkiewicz said. “I try to pick out wines that will accentuate the food. While we could either compliment or contrast the meal, me and the chef taste everything together. We put the time in and fortunately it pays off.”

The Blue Llama Jazz Club can be contacted at 734-372-3200.

Other Michigan recipients 

In addition to the Ann Arbor restaurants selected, several Michigan mainstays were also highlighted such as Saint Joseph, Mich. restaurant Bistro on the Boulevard, and Detroit steakhouse Prime & Proper. Both restaurants received the tier two Best of Award of Excellence.

The complete list of awarded Michigan restaurants can be found on WineSpectator.com.

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