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As a wine lover, I’m pleased to report that New Jersey ranks fourth in the nation for per- capita wine consumption. By comparison, for every four glasses of wine a Jersey girl or guy raises to toast, someone from Mississippi is only drinking one.
Where are we drinking all this wine? A significant amount is served in our restaurants and we are fortunate to have many with outstanding wine lists. A great source for finding an extensive wine selection is Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Wine List Awards. The awards “recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.”
In New Jersey, 95 restaurants have been given awards by Wine Spectator. The highest designation, the Grand Award, has been earned by three establishments in New Jersey: Park & Orchard, Pluckemin Inn and Restaurant Latour. Park & Orchard in East Rutherford has 14,000 bottles to choose from, while the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster boasts 47,000. Restaurant Latour in Hardyston at Crystal Springs Resort has approximately 100,000 bottles, one of the largest restaurant collections on the globe.
The next category of awards is the Best of Award of Excellence. We have 21 restaurants around the state that are included into this category. They include Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, Elements in Princeton, Ninety Acres Culinary Center in Peapack-Gladstone and the Manor in West Orange. Restaurants honoroed with a third designation, the Award of Excellence, include Azucar Cuban Cuisine and Cigars and Casa Dante, both in Jersey City; Fornos of Spain in Newark; and Windrift in Avalon.
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.