Kalona’s Tuscan Moon Grill on Fifth is in elite company.
In the latest issue of Wine Spectator magazine, Tuscan Moon was given an Award of Excellence.
“For us, this is a huge thing because this magazine goes all over the world,” Tuscan Moon owner Warren Miller said. “For me, it’s important because there’s nobody else from eastern Iowa on the list, so it’s a big deal.”
According to the magazine’s website, the Award of Excellence is given to establishments that “offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.”
Miller said he tried three years ago to get on Wine Spectator’s list but to no avail.
“I applied for it again in December to get in this year, and they said they’d let me know in May,” Miller said. “I didn’t hear anything at all. Then, the magazine came out, and I was totally shocked that we’re in it.”
The list includes about 3,800 restaurants from around the world, and only 10 in Iowa.
“You have to have a good line, good pricing and food to compare to it,” Miller said. “This is the wine bible for anyone who likes wine.”
Miller said that he has always enjoyed wine.
“I’m certainly not an expert; I’m a novice,” he said. “I just know what I like. If it appeals to me, I’ll buy some of it.”
When he and his wife, Paula, opened the restaurant 14 years ago, they started with a small selection of about 30 wines.
That has grown to more than 200 wine selections, making up an inventory of about 1,800 bottles.
“After we started the restaurant, we started adding wines,” Miller said. “I read about wines, I enjoy good wines, and we go to wine shows. We just kept tasting wines and adding wines.”
The growing inventory provided a new challenge for the Millers.
“We had everything in boxes downstairs, so if someone ordered something, I’d have to go down and look for it,” Miller said. “So about four years ago, I said, ‘That’s it, I’m going to build a cellar.’ It holds in racks, about 1,200 bottles.”
The wine cellar also provides a small, intimate space for private dinners.
“We’ve had a few engagements down here,” Miller said.
Tuscan Moon’s wine reputation has grown along with its inventory.
“We do six wine dinners a year here, where we pair wine with food,” Miller said. “We’ve had vineyard owners from California here doing dinners. We got a lot of recognition from that.”
Miller said that the award means a lot and will help bring new customers to Tuscan Moon.
“It’s a big award,” he said. “It will get the word out to a lot of people who never knew we were here.”