If, as sommelier Jason Carlen says in his introduction to the restaurant’s cellar, the Spiaggia “wine list is a bit of a maze,” then it’s one any lover of Italian wine would be happy to get lost in. Yes it’s long, with twists and turns through every vinous sidetrack in the Italian boot and its surrounding islands. But it’s beautifully presented, with many eye-catching landmarks.
As Carlen says, the wines he’s curated for chef-partner Tony Mantuano’s fine-Italian-dining institution on the shores of Lake Michigan are selected with food in mind—a fact that was not lost on our judges. They were also impressed by the feeling of, for want of a better word, “equality.” This is far from being one of those classical Italian lists with nothing but big name Barolo and Brunello (although the selections of both are superb). Alpine reds and whites from Valle d’Aosta and Alto-Adige; a broad choice of Sardinian and Corsican bottles; and a serious selection from the Mezzogiorno, combine to make for an enlightening and delicious trip.