Long the target of “little sister” criticism, our sister city has developed an outstanding wine culture with the help of landmarks like Polo Grill and entrepreneurs like Vintage 1740’s Matt Sanders.
Most of Tulsa’s premier wine locations can be found in a relatively small geographic area, especially when compared to Oklahoma City’s sprawl. Utica Square, Cherry Street and Brookside have enough fine dining and fine wine establishments to more than fill a weekend getaway, and all are located within a very short driving distance of Tulsa’s excellent downtown hotels.
Polo Grill, 2038 Utica Square, has been in business since 1983. In that time, it has amassed 11 Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence. Scott Garrett, certified sommelier and wine director, oversees a 46-page wine list that features more than 900 selections. The list includes separate sections for Premiere Napa Valley wines. PNV wines are purchased in an annual auction, and the purchaser buys an entire lot, meaning the wines are truly unique. The menu is arranged by varietal, making the task of selecting a wine somewhat less daunting. Prices range from about $20 all the way up to $5,117 for a 1996 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Rarely does a list feature something for everyone, but Polo Grill’s does.
One of Tulsa’s relative newcomers is The Brasserie, 3509 S. Peoria. Founded in 2006, the Brookside restaurant features 75 wines by the glass and remarkably delicious food. Former executive chef Justin Thompson has moved on to focus on Juniper, his soon-to-open new restaurant in downtown Tulsa, and he was succeeded by the former chef de cuisine Marcus Vause.
Joe Breaux, the general manager, left Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, 1976 Utica Square, in early summer to assume his responsibilities at The Brasserie, and his first focus was to reconstruct the wine list to better reflect the restaurant’s French theme and cuisine.
“The challenge is the perception that Old World wines have with some people,” Breaux said. “The perception of the general guest is that French or Old World is not their style. We’re going to take the wine list in a little more Old World direction, but we have to balance our desire to be French-y with what actually sells.”
In addition to the excellent number of selections by the glass, Breaux cites Vause’s work and the increasing amount of locally sourced food as The Brasserie’s primary strengths.
Three Valleys Zinfandel blend and Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve Pinot
Noir are available locally at Broadway Wine Merchants.
The wine list includes a very good mix of Old and New World wines. Breaux has worked to ensure that the Old World wines are approachable. He recommended Régis Minet Pouilly Fumé, a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc with sweet fruit and solid minerality, and Francois Montand brut rosé, a French sparkling wine with raspberry and cherry flavors, as well as a comfortably affordable price.
Tulsa also boasts two wine bars now: Vintage 1740, 1740 S. Boston, and Sonoma Bistro & Wine Bar, 3523 S. Peoria. Vintage 1740 features a half-dozen seating areas with comfortably stuffed furniture in addition to its bar. The wine list isn’t long, but the selections are excellent. Owner Matt Sanders has chosen a list based on quality not quantity, and it shows.
The list in an eclectic mix of Old and New World, and features wines that are hard to find by the glass, like Bergström Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir. The Oregon Pinot is serious without losing its excellent red fruit character.
The Brasserie’s sister restaurant is Sonoma, which is located right around the corner from The Brasserie. The wine list boasts 100 wines by the glass, equaling the list at Fleming’s in terms of number. The list is filled out with some everyday drinkers, but there are some surprisingly good selections on the list, including Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel and L’Ecole #41 Recess Red, a Bordeaux-style blend that’s rare by the glass.