Seasons 52, billed as a fresh grill and wine bar, opened three weeks ago in Century City's old Houston's space. George Miliotes, MS, created the wine list, which received an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator in 2011. Surprised that an offspring of Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) had a sommelier leading the beverage department, I couldn't help wonder: What would a wine list born of such dubious culinary parantage and a Master Sommelier look like?
Mr. Miliotes has curated a list of approximately 100 wines by the bottle and 60, or so, by the glass. He has succeeded in appealing to a broad range of palates. Drinkers can try things from off the beaten path, or stick with familiar labels.
About a third of the list comes from lesser-known producers: a lovely grower Champagne from Chartogne-Taillet, and an orange wine made especially for Seasons 52 by Vista Hills in Willamette Valley. The majority, however, are what I call supermarket wines: widely available and inexpensive, albeit in this case made by quality producers: Honig, Caymus, Cakebread.
New World selections predominate, which makes sense given the restaurant’s seasonal, California-inspired menu. They are weighted toward California, followed mainly by South Africa, Argentina and Australia. Prices range from $7.50-$19.50 by the glass, and $30.00-$230.00 for a bottle. Seasons 52 appears to be following today's standard practice: charging guests per glass what the restaurant paid wholesale for the bottle—give or take.
There are some catchy and promising groupings that show Mr. Miliotes' acumen for staying current with trends. Among them is a break-out box in the upper left corner: George Recommends Drinking These Now Before They Become Famous. Here you’ll find a nod to recent interest in California Petite Sirah with the inclusion of Michael David’s from Lodi, a formerly eschewed region now on the upswing.
Venerated wine writer, Jancis Robinson, waxed poetic this year about Spain’s Godello, a grape native to Galicia. Miliotes features Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras, 2010/2011, introducing this variety just as it comes on the radar. It was comforting to see the Fabulous Unoaked Whites and Natural, Biodynamic & Organic categories. Hopefully, this reflects increased consumer and sommelier demand for more balanced, consciously made wines.
A piano bar was gained in the transformation from Houston’s to Seasons 52, where music plays nightly. The space remains cozy and inviting—lots of heavy, polished wood and warm accents. Lamentably, gone are the elevated banquettes against the east and south walls that made great cubbyholes for canoodling couples. Still, Seasons 52 makes a comfortable neighborhood watering hole, with affordable and interesting wine choices.
While perusing the menu: Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, NV
Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli: Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras, 2010/2011. Paso a Paso Verdejo,La Mancha, 2010/2011.
Spicy Chicken Chili Relleno: Selbach-Oster Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel, 2006/2010. Although listed as a dessert wine, being off-dry makes it an interesting choice against the chili’s heat. Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy Grenache, Monterey, 2010.