People have different expectations about dining out, but as a certified sommelier, I like to focus on the wine list. My ideal wine list demonstrates a thorough knowledge of classic wine styles and regions, and is inclusive enough for me and also my grandma (who drinks pinot grigio with ice cubes in it and I love her for it) to find common drinking ground. Above all else, it should be priced fairly.
Everyone bemoans the spending habits of new generations of wine drinkers (millennials, Total Wine, delivery services) but I have always thought that a well-informed and savvy wine-drinking public is better than the alternative, even if it forces the widely adopted wine list paradigm to shift.
Santa Fe, for all its uniqueness and isolation, is following suit. This page points out some wine lists that have special deals to benefit the savvy wine-drinker.
72 W Marcy St.; 125 Lincoln Ave., Ste. 117, 982-3433
This intriguing list focuses predominantly on Spanish wines, with other quality producers from other countries represented, and includes an impressive selection of sherry. Their wine club is a modest $50 a year for membership and it comes with a yearlong 30 percent off wine specials as well as a special half-off on Wednesdays on bottles priced at $100 or higher, among other perks.
315 Restaurant and Wine Bar
315 Old Santa Fe Trail, 986-9190
Tuesday is the day to go to 315, when all bottles of wine are half-price all night; as well as an "oyster happy hour" from 5-7 pm, when all oysters are also half-priced. This includes even the half-bottles on the list, which is obviously well-loved and carefully cultivated. For example, a bottle of Graci Etna Rosso is typically $52, but on Tuesdays is a mere $26. There are plenty of both old- and new-world classics, including Grand Cru Burgundy and classified Bordeaux. Also plenty of German riesling, whites from Alsace, Sicilian reds, and other "patio pounders" to go with those oysters.
La Casa Sena
125 E Palace Ave., 988-9232
The wine program at La Casa Sena is large and sprawling, due in no small part to its concept as a hybrid retail space and restaurant. But its wine club is a truly good deal because its members get retail prices for bottles of wines at the table both at the restaurant and its sister, Rio Chama (414 Old Santa Fe Trail, 955-0765). This makes a big difference; the same bottle that retails for a 30 percent markup could easily have a restaurant markup of 300 percent.
Disclosure: Mary Francis Cheeseman is an employee of the La Casa Sena Wine Shop.
218 Camino La Tierra, 983-2100
Like La Casa Sena, Arroyo Vino consists of a hybrid retail space and restaurant. What is truly impressive about Arroyo Vino's wine program is how it easily integrates the flexibility afforded by the wine shop selection. The shop boasts over 1,000 different wines that are all available in the restaurant for a $30 corkage fee. Obviously the more expensive the bottle, the more beneficial the deal; a bottle that retails for $16 would be $46 at table, but a bottle that retails for $45 would only be $75 instead of $95 (assuming the restaurant markup is in the usual neighborhood of three times the original wholesale price, at least for bottles of wine under $50.) The shop itself is well-curated, adding hidden depths to the excellent wines already on the list. It's an admirable system at Arroyo Vino, and one that doesn't require membership dues to enjoy.
95 W Marcy St., 984-1091
Our mission really isn't happy hours here, but what distinguishes Il Piatto's is that it happens twice a day. It can be difficult to find a restaurant in Santa Fe that offers a decent glass of wine for under $10, but Il Piatto has quaffable whites from Languedoc and Bordeaux for three hours a day, from both 4:30-6 pm and 9-10:30 pm, when all wines by the glass (and small plates of food) are half price. The full list is also thoughtfully cultivated, with a focus on Italian (primarily Piedmontese) and French bottlings.