Steve DiFillippo doesn’t have a wine cellar at home. Instead, the owner of Davio’s Northern Italian Grill in Lynnfield just has a small wine fridge in the kitchen, “and we turn it over frequently,” he says with a laugh. So it stands to reason that when developing a wine with his restaurant’s name on it, he wanted something people can enjoy right now.
DiFillippo also wanted something that reflects the personality of his restaurants’ bold, classic flavors while complementing the menu of handmade pastas, steak, and seafood. So all Davio’s locations along the Eastern Seaboard offer three custom-selected reserve varietals—a pinot noir, a chardonnay, and a cabernet sauvignon.
Like many wine-centered restaurants, Davio’s has found that offering a custom label is a natural step. It’s an expansion of the brand, and by eliminating the middleman, restaurants can offer top quality at a moderate price.
“It’s the coolest thing,” DiFillippo says. “People walk in off the street and ask for a glass of Davio’s Chardonnay. You can’t get it anywhere else.”
Here are five North Shore restaurants offering wines patrons can’t sip anywhere else.
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse
Lynnfield, Boston, and other locations
Wines: Davio’s Chardonnay 2014, Alexander Valley; Davio’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Russian River Valley; Davio’s Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley
Style: Davio’s reserve blends showcase classic expressions of each grape, so expect a big, buttery chardonnay and a bold yet balanced cabernet sauvignon. “Our soul is Italian, but we’re a heck of a good steak house, so the cabernet had to stand up to the meat,” owner Steve DiFillippo says. The pinot noir is more delicate, to give it the versatility to pair with seafood as well.”
Story: DiFillippo partnered with Merriam Vineyards, nestled in the warmest edge of California’s Russian River Valley, to produce his blends, which are offered at all eight Davio’s locations. “I wanted to make sure it was at the quality level our guests are used to,” DiFillippo says, noting that he visited the vineyard to sample and select from the vintner’s collection of California-crafted Bordeaux-style wines. “It gives great value to our guests. It’s very, very good, and because we buy so much of it, we can get a good price for it.”
Wines: Frattaroli Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (red) and Frattaroli Pecorino (white), both from Abruzzo in Central Italy
Style: Medium-bodied and food-friendly, these are classic representations of the wines that pair best with Lucia’s Italian cuisine.
Story: Lucia has offered a custom label wine since the late 1970s out of necessity, says Philip Frattaroli, managing partner with Filmark Hospitality Group, which owns Lucia’s two locations as well as several other area restaurants. “When we first opened, we couldn’t find [Montepulciano D’Abruzzo] and worked with our wine distributors to start importing it to the U.S.,” he says. These days, the wines incorporate grapes from vineyards in Central Italy that have been in the Frattaroli family for generations, and the label features a bed-and-breakfast the family owns in the region. “For us, there is no better representation of where we come from,” Frattaroli says.
Wine: The Patriarch 2014
Style: A blend of 70 percent cabernet sauvignon, 32 percent merlot, and 8 percent Syrah, The Patriarch is a big, bold wine with enough structure to stand up to a steak, but soft enough to enjoy right now.
Story: Kate Webber, sommelier at Webber Restaurant Group, the family business that owns The Bancroft and several other restaurants, traveled to Banshee Wines in Healdsburg, California, to blend this wine herself, and expects that the mix may change from vintage to vintage. “After being in business for 12 years, we [wanted] to create something that was directed toward what [our guests] had been drinking and the food we were serving them,” Webber says. “Our guests enjoy bigger wines that have punch and flavor—wines that are memorable and linger. I tried to make The Patriarch as perfect as possible, especially because it is named after my father [Steve Webber], my own personal patriarch.”
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Burlington and Boston
Wines: Selbach-Oster ‘Cuvée Merroir’ Riesling Mosel from Germany and Banshee ‘ICOB Cuvée’ Sauvignon Blanc from California
Style: Screeching acidity, lots of minerality, and some fruit characteristics all complement oysters. Not surprisingly, with such focus on the “merroir” of its oysters, Island Creek’s wines are also expressive of their origin.
Story: Island Creek’s wine directors traveled to Germany to craft the Riesling and California to make the sauvignon blanc, choosing the parcels, barrels, or cuvees that excited them the most, and then working with the producers to craft the blends. “Ideally a private label wine balances expressing the grape variety in its true form, the terroir of the vineyard or region, and the spirit of the restaurant,” explains Jillian Rocco, who oversees the wine program and also serves as director of operations for Island Creek Oyster Bar. “Private labels allow us to work closely with our favorite producers to craft wines that are uniquely suited to pair with our food and express the preferences of our wine directors.”
Burlington and Salem, New Hampshire
Wine: Tuscan Kitchen Private Reserve Toscana
Style: A blend of 70 percent Sangiovese, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 15 percent Syrah, this super Tuscan wine is approachable, with bold fruit and subtle complexity.
Story: The Tuscan team tasted more than 50 blends handcrafted in small batches before settling on a mix of grapes handpicked from the Castello Di Querceto castle and vineyard in Greve, Chianti. Toscana is intended to pair with grilled and braised meats, as well as fresh pasta, salumi, and imported Italian cheeses. “It’s a wine that delivers exceptional quality for a reasonable price,” says Joseph Comforti, Tuscan Brands wine director.