Carrie Rengers

Wine Spectator toasts three Wichita restaurants

Five years ago, when the Wine Dive earned its first Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator – each award has a one-, two- or three-glass designation, with three being the best – co-owner and sommelier Brad Steven said he would immediately set about working on the publication’s coveted two-glass award.

“Basically, it was a lot harder than I thought it was,” he says.

Now, he and his brother, Wine Dive co-owner Brent Steven, have it.

“It’s pretty cool,” Brad Steven says. “We were just super-excited and relieved at the same time.”

He says there were 2,414 winners of the one-glass Award of Excellence and 1,093 for the two-glass award.

So it’s “definitely on a little bit more of a pedestal than we were on.”

Only 88 businesses won the three-glass award. Steven says he’s not working toward that one next.

“That won’t ever happen,” he says. “Wichita, for one, doesn’t have the clientele, and neither do I.”

That’s not a slam. He says it’s just that there aren’t that many people here who want to spend “thousands and thousands of dollars just for one wine.”

Top restaurants in places such as New York and Paris have those kinds of regular diners who, as Steven puts it, “with a blink of an eye, will drop $10,000 on a bottle of burgundy.”

To stock those kinds of wine, he says, “I would run out of business.”

Diners who regularly spend $200 on a Napa Cabernet? Sure.

To win the three-glass award, Steven says, he’d have to move to New York, “and I’d have to have an investor with millions of dollars to buy wines for me.”

Chester’s Chophouse & Wine Bar, which has also made the list before, and Siena Tuscan Steakhouse received one-glass awards.

So what won the Wine Dive its two-glass distinction? Steven says it’s smaller-production, harder-to-find wines, including organic wines.

“We have been searching and building that list for a very long time now.”

Steven says the Wine Dive has very little employee turnover, and his servers know the restaurant’s list of 400 wines almost as well as he does.

“That’s the only way we’re able to do it, honestly.”

Steven says he’d been wondering why the restaurant wasn’t recognized earlier, so he called Wine Spectator.

“Are you singling us out because we’re in Kansas?” he asked.

Now the magazine could be singling out the Steven brothers in a good way. Someone from the publication interviewed them and requested photos, so Brad Steven says they’re eager to see it when it comes out in two weeks to see whether there’s a story about them or the restaurant.

Even without the chance to win the three-glass award, Steven says he’ll try to keep improving the Wine Dive’s list.

“The wine list will always keep building mainly because I just geek out about that stuff,” he says. “There’s always some new wine I gotta try.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers