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Best Wine List in a Restaurant (Price Be Damned) St. Louis 2011 - Annie Gunn's

Annie Gunn\'s

Annie Gunn's

16806 Chesterfield Airport Road

Chesterfield, MO 63005

636-532-7684

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The wine program at Annie Gunn's features the talents of not one, but two of St. Louis' most decorated wine pros: Glenn Bardgett, who was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award this year for his work; and John Cain, former sommelier at Truffles (another restaurant with a top-notch list). So, yeah, Annie Gunn's is a place where you can splurge, and once you've perused the nearly 40-page list, reading the smart, passionate and occasionally humorous descriptions of each bottle, you'll be ready to take out a third mortgage to order what appeals to you. You can do the most damage with the restaurant's selection of California cabernet sauvignon, with cult cabs priced in the $700-to-$1,200 range and most other selections slotted significantly north of $100. You can also treat yourself to Italy's famed Super Tuscans, France's Rhône studs or domestic pinot noir magnates. If you're debating whether it's worth the outlay, remember that you won't be able to find most of these bottles at other fancy restaurants, let alone a liquor store. And you certainly won't find two wine experts able to guide you to making the perfect choice to pair with Lou Rook's food and your special occasion.

Stanley Browne is that rare wine lover who's passionate enough about wine to want to make it accessible to others. His Webster Groves restaurant and wine bar embodies that idea. It begins with how Robust categorizes its wines, using terms too straightforward for the Wine Advocate blowhards: crisp, luscious, soft-hearted, robust. It extends to the pricing. Yes, there is a markup over retail — a guy's gotta make living, after all — but the range is wallet-friendly (the $30-to-$60 sweet spot), and the bottles are carefully chosen. (The inventory is in a constant state of evolution.) Same with the by-the-glass selection, which includes six-ounce pours of more than two dozen wines, most priced under $10 — and, for those who want to try several wines without breaking the bank (or the blood-alcohol limit), they're all available as three-ounce pours. Find something you really like? Robust is a wine shop as well as a wine bar, and the retail price tags are more than reasonable.

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