Brooklyn’s The River Café is a kind of finishing school for chefs— called it the “Harvard Business School of the culinary world”—shaping the careers of some of the biggest names in American cooking: Larry Forgione, Charlie Palmer, David Burke, Rick Laakkonen, and Brad Steelman. But, since opening in 1977, it’s played an equally important role in shaping the country’s wine culture, although in this case it’s largely down to one man: ever-present wine director, Joseph DeLissio, aided today by sommelier Edmund Pollard.
In his near-three decades of buying wine, DeLissio has amassed a rich and varied collection of wines from the world’s top producers. Among the highlights—unsurprisingly, given that The River Café was the first restaurant in New York to list Jordan, Opus One, Dominus, Dunn, Harlan, Phelps Insignia, Sonoma Cutrer, Far Niente, and Shafer among others—is the collection of mature Californian reds, plus a splendid array of Madeira. But it’s the strength in depth that really pleased the judges, with sound choices in each of the many regions represented on a list full of history.