One of the items on my husband’s bucket list is to play golf on Hilton Head Island, so when I was able to get a good deal on a weekly condo rental there recently, we jetted off to the South Carolina island covered with long white sandy beaches, swaying palms, pink azaleas, and oak trees dripping with lacy moss.
He was happy because he was finally able to play Harbour Town golf course with the famous red and white lighthouse on the 18th hole. He also enjoyed the challenge of Sea Pines Ocean course, Palmetto Dunes and Shipyard. I was pleasantly pleased because I stumbled across some wine by the glass lists with unique wine choices, while also managing to get in a little golf and take an excellent short game clinic with Doug Weaver at Palmetto Dunes.
The Ennui of Wine by the Glass Selections – or Not?
In general, I find many wine by the glass lists rather boring in that they carry the same major brands, although I do recognize that many consumers are seeking the comfort of a familiar wine, and that restaurants want the reassurance of solid cash flow. Therefore I was quite surprised to find buried within the KJ Chardonnays, Beringer White Zins, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blancs, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, and Apothic Red Blends, a few unique gems.
The first surprise was at the Topside Waterfront Restaurant where we found a Picpoul (white grape from the South of France with a zippy lemony edge) and a Chapoutier Grenache Blanc and Clairette blend on the extensive wine by the glass list – both for under $10. When I asked to see the complete wine list by the bottle, I found it was the same as the by the glass list, but with the prices inflated by four. Therefore it made no sense to buy a bottle, so instead we opted for 4 different glasses.
The next day in Savannah when dining at the famous Old Pink House, we were quite surprised to find a Godello on the wine by the glass list. This is a white wine from Spain that is rarely found in the US. It was crisp with sharp acid, grapefruit notes, and a mineral edge. They also carried a Lioco unoaked chardonnay, which is a tiny artistic winery in Sonoma that most people have never heard of – including me, and I’m from Sonoma!
Probably one of the best culinary experiences we had was at a restaurant that I didn’t want to enter because it looked like a nightclub with a dark interior, red lights, and bar stools at high tables. However, we had been told that Daniel’s at Coligny Beach on Hilton Head featured a creative chef with artistic large tapa plates like the angry lobster, lamb lollipops, and tableside hummus preparation. The wine by the glass list was equally innovative with several flights served in a tiered candelabra presentation (see photo), as well as Naked “natural” wine from Snoqualmie Washington and two unique styled malbecs from Argentina. Equally intriguing about Daniel’s were their homemade liquors, such as vodka with Skittles, peach and bacon soaked bourbon, and many other unusual concoctions.
Extensive Wine by the Glass Selections – But Had to Request Wine List
One interesting observation at all three of these higher-end restaurants is that none of them brought the complete wine list with bottle prices to the table with the menus. Instead they featured extensive wine by the glass lists inside the food menu. Perhaps this is a custom in this part of the country. I’m not sure what the explanation is, but I did notice that a lot of people were drinking wine in Georgia and South Carolina – a good sign for American culture because as Thomas Jefferson said, “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.”