Magazine selects Suzanne's for wine honor
By Jesse Phelps
Ojai gourmet restaurant Suzanne's
Cuisine has been honored this year by Wine Spectator magazine
for the first time with its Award of Excellence.
Each year, "Wine Spectator" honors a small selection
of restaurants with its Award of Excellence or its Grand Award,
both of which signify a major coup for the restaurateurs. The
Award of Excellence, specifically, signifies that the award-winner
has "one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in
Jennifer Cliff, assistant manager and wine buyer, said she believes
Suzanne's received the award for "the depth of the list"
and her commitment to "put effort into offering wines to
the consumer at good prices," as well as "taking into
account our menu and my ability to pair."
Cliff says she likes to be somewhat creative with her pairing,
taking into account the palate of the consumer in addition to
the food selection. She doesn't necessarily believe, for instance,
that fish must be paired with a white. "There's not a rock-solid
rule and I think that it's kind of dated to say there is,"
Cliff says she not only takes into account the customer's previous
wine experience and preferences but that her approach is not
to have a terribly expensive list.
"It's fine dining, but it is a casual atmosphere,"
she said. "I want people to come in here and try things
that they wouldn't normally be able to try."
The wine list at Suzanne's, according to Cliff, features selections
from all over the world, with a focus on California.
"I find smaller producers, things you wouldn't find in retail
a lot," said Cliff. "I take a very creative approach."
Suzanne's differs from some other area eateries because of the
availability of cocktails, though the award does not take that
into account. "I have an extensive martini list I've created,"
she said. "We do both sides of it. I do have a lot of fu
n drinks. Some are not my own recipes, but predominantly they
These recipes often include seasonal offerings. "I don't
want to say they're martinis for novices, but a lot of them are
fun," says Cliff. "I have summertime martinis during
this moment in time, and in winter, peppery, more warming kind
Cliff has a blast coming up with offerings. "It's what I
enjoy doing," she said. "It's my passion."
The Aug. 31, 2003 issue of Wine Spectator featuring the award
listings has already been sent to subscribers and, according
to Cliff, will hit magazine shelves soon.
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