Harwigs earns 32nd consecutive Wine Spectator award
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s a certain romanticism in opening a bottle of wine.
“The sommelier comes to your table, pulls the cork, presents it, has his cloth to wipe the bottle and then pours a taste in your glass – all of a sudden, the evening is elevated,” said Mike Lang, sommelier at Harwigs. “It’s an experience.”
Owner Jamie Jenny, first opened the restaurant as “L’Apogee,” French for “the Pinnacle,” and he continues to shape the kitchen with his son JJ, the executive chef, and the wine cellar with Lang.
Pairing food with the perfect wine:
• With oysters: Try the White Burgundy, the ultimate French chardonnay. “It’s high in acidity, crisp and the minerals in it go beautifully with the oysters,” Jenny said.
• With foie gras: Try the Sauternes, the French sweet wine from the Sauternes region of Bordeaux. “The sweetness of the wine helps balance the richness of the foie gras,” Jenny said.
Give these a try:
• Auxey-Duresses – a white Burgundy chardonnay from France
• Montrachet – a widely recognized chardonnay made in Côte de Beaune subregion of Burgundy, France.
• Albariño – a key grape varietal made in the white wines of Rias Baixas from northwestern Spain
• Matanzas Creek — a cabernet sauvignon from Sonoma County, California
• Mount Veeder — a deep ruby cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
Behind the wine:
Jamie Jenny has a passion for wine and is a collector whose wine cellar has a total inventory of 7,900 to 8,200 bottles of wine.
Harwigs also offers over 40 wines by the glass.
One of the restaurant’s wine cellars is temperature controlled for white wine, and two other cellars are located about 9 1/2 feet below ground to house the reds.
This fall, Harwigs was recognized for its wine program in Wine Spectator’s 2018 Restaurant Awards for the 32nd year in a row. Harwigs is the only restaurant in Steamboat Springs to be honored.
This year, Wine Spectator honored 3,759 restaurants across the U.S. and the world, with awards given in three categories: Award of Excellence, Best of Award of Excellence and Grand Award. Harwigs won the Best of Award of Excellence.
Wine lists can be baffling, whether a page long or a few pages, so Lang explains how to order wine and pair wine with your meal as well as what it takes to put together a robust, award-winning wine list.
What to spend for a great bottle of wine?
A great wine doesn’t have to do with price necessarily. It has to do with palate.
“A good wine, I always say, is whatever’s in my glass,” Lang said. “It depends on who you’re sitting with and what you’re doing when you’re drinking the wine – it’s socialization, it’s part of what we do, and it’s part of a meal.”
Passion for wine is culture-driven, according to Lang.
“It has a history in the families that planted the vines and created the wine,” he said. “There’s tradition in how it was created – wine brings forth a memory for those who make it and drink it.”
Pro tips on being a wine connoisseur
“About 90 percent of what you’ll learn about wine is through consumption,” Lang said. “You can read or talk, but what you really want to do is taste. Try a lot of different things. Figure out what you like.”
When it comes to tasting tips, Lang suggests you first look at the wine, the label and what the wine looks like in the glass. Then, smell it and taste it.
All palates are different, and for those overwhelmed by looking at the expansive list, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to wine.
“What you really want to do is taste and figure out what you like,” Lang said. “It’s yum or yuck. I’m not going to tell you what you like, you will figure it out.”
Certain wines are hot, certain wines are not
The Wine Spectator award looks at a fine dining restaurant’s menu, décor, service, and essentially, how a restaurant presents itself.
Lang attributes Harwigs’ 32 years of Wine Spectator awards to Jenny’s passion and the staff’s dedication to service, fine food and wine that’s gone above and beyond each year to maintain the level of professionalism the magazine is looking for.
“It’s not about what’s most expensive; it’s about what your clientele is looking for,” Lang said. “Then you try to have a variety that will meet many different flavor characteristics and what people are looking for with their meal.”
Harwigs’ wine collection features over 750 different selections.
“It evolves, but it evolves with current trends, and it also includes a tribute to the classics that will always stand tall like our French collection of Burgundy and Bordeaux,” Lang said.
To create the list, they look at vintages, what year produced the best wine, flavors, as well as winemakers known in the industry for the wine they produce.
“We make selections that work with the list and especially our clientele – Steamboat,” Lang said.
What are you drinking now?
In the fall, Lang said he would be drinking bold, Spanish wine.
“Tempranillo is a wonderful grape for full-bodied red or I could be drinking a glass of Nebbiolo from Italy,” Lang said.
“What’s hot right now is Grenache, from Spain, southern France, southern Italy,” Lang said. “And in the industry, we’re looking at Paso Robles, California, wines as well as wines from Washington, which are really interesting and price friendly.”
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It was a love story that brought Jason Erwin to Steamboat Springs from Nashville, Tennessee.