Every wine list tells a story. At many restaurants wine lists are composed as hastily assembled afterthoughts to the menu, or as thinly veiled attempts to turn mad coin on extortive markups. Those stories begin, Once upon a time there was a restaurant-owning schmuck who really didn't know or care about wine
. Weighing in at a novella-length 30 pages, the wine list at Riddle's recounts the heroic tale of owner Andy Ayers and his nineteen-year quest to bring an exhaustive, eclectic and lovingly chosen selection of wines to his customers, whether they're bona fide oenophiles or laymen who can't tell a Riesling from a Rioja. The opening chapter, "Wines by the Glass," introduces readers to more than twenty varietals, from the tragically hip (a Southeastern Australian shiraz) to the achingly outré (Sutter Home white zin?!). It also foreshadows the narrative thrust of Ayers' magnum opus: At Riddle's, wines are judged on individual merit, not Q rating, and above all, wine drinkers should be willing and adventurous, which is why Ayers keeps prices low and is always happy to let patrons taste-test their way to the bottle they want. Subsequent chapters prove breathtaking, especially "Rhone Wines," wherein our protagonist apparently suffers a mental breakdown -- how else to explain a bottle of 1991 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Château de Beaucastel for a mind-blowingly low $60? Our blurb for the back cover: "Hands down, one of the best wine lists we've ever seen!"