It's that time of year again. Wine Spectator has just unveiled its annual list of restaurants with admirable cellars, bestowing the eateries with tiered awards of excellence -- and giving anyone who chooses a restaurant for its wine list a handy place to start.
Of the 3,700 places worldwide that scored accolades this year, 103 are in Colorado -- including two Grand Awards of Excellence, which is the highest honor the publication bestows, reserved for restaurants that have at least 1,500 excellent selections on hand at any given time.
In 2011, one of those coveted designations went to Boulder's Flagstaff House, which, with its 20,000-bottle cellar, has landed the award every year since 1983. The other Colorado Grand Award resides with Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, which has picked up the prize every year since 1997. Those two restaurants join just 72 other restaurants on the planet -- including New York's Eleven Madison Park and San Francisco's RN74 -- that boast the top honor.
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Twenty-five spots took the Best Award of Excellence, the second highest designation, which is given for lists with breadth and depth in several vintages and regions. Denver and Boulder spots that nabbed the honor include the Greenbriar Inn, the Capital Grille, Shanahan's Steakhouse, Restaurant Kevin Taylor, Palace Arms, Frasca Food and Wine, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, Brook's Steak House and Barolo Grill.
And that leaves 76 Colorado restaurants that picked up an Award of Excellence, which designates a thoughtful, excellent wine list that matches the price and cuisine of the restaurant. Those winners include Ocean Prime, Rioja, Black Cat Restaurant, Vesta Dipping Grill and Elway's Downtown.