This past spring, I reported in The Sacramento Bee about the reactivation of the Wine Patrol, a group of California wine-industry wags who on and off over the past 20 years have been trying to deflate the pomposity that often inhibits the pure pleasure of wine.
Led by veteran Sonoma County winemaker Lance Cutler, the group in March launched a campaign to persuade restaurateurs to adopt more consumer-friendly wine programs. Toward that end, Cutler announced that he and his deputies would bestow a WinePAL certificate on any restaurant meeting the group's standards.
Among other things, those standards specify that the wine list have at least one wine under $30 in each category, that at least 10 percent of the entire list be under $30, that corkage be $10 or less per bottle, and that the name of the person responsible for the wine list be on the list.
It's taken the Wine Patrol six months, but it's finally found a restaurant that measures up to the standards. The first WinePAL certificate has been awarded Peter and Kristen Stewart, owners of Deuce Restaurant in Sonoma.
At Deuce, wherein chef Arnold Pulido turns out contemporary American food with Italian and French accents, the cellar is stocked with 170 different wines, nearly 40 percent of which are under $30. In announcing the award, Cutler gave two examples of the kinds of first-rate affordable wines that he and his group would like to see more often in restaurants - the David Noyes 2004 North Coast Tocai Friulano ($23) and the Jade Mountain 2003 Old Vine Mourvedre ($26).
"There are some wonderful restaurants that seek out thrilling wines and use reasonable mark-ups to provide value and quality for their customers. Deuce is one of them," said Cutler as he hit the trail to find others.