Lockhart Bistro wins prestigious wine award
By Wesley Gardner
Lockhart Bistro Owner and Chef Parind Vora knows wine and fine dining. He’s spent the last forty years learning the ins and outs of the industry, and now his restaurant has the credentials to prove it.
Last week, Lockhart Bistro was awarded with the 2020 Wine Spectator award, an award given out to honor the world’s best wine lists as a way of encouraging restaurants to continually work to improve their selections.
For context, only 22 restaurants were given the award within a 50-mile radius of Austin, which has hundreds of thousands of restaurants by itself.
“It’ll definitely put us on the map to people in Austin,” said Vora. “I think it’s great for our community.”
For Vora, this has been a dream years in the making, and it’s been an expensive dream, to boot.
“Our wine program costs over $150,000,” said Vora. “Obviously, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, here’s the check.’ It was something that was built. We started off something I felt would be solid, but not too big. Then we kept adding and adding and adding.
“Normally, people will say, ‘Well if I don’t drink wine, who cares?’ But if a restaurant is paying attention to its wine program, investing heavily, because it’s not cheap to do, it basically doubles the restaurant’s cost to have a spectator rated list, easily if not more, and that comes directly out of the restaurant owner’s pockets.”
Vora said that a lot more goes into creating a wine list than simply the purchase of wine.
“Pricing of the wine helps our guests understand the type of restaurant this is,” said Vora, “so it’s not just the wine itself, it’s wine storage.
“It’s glassware for the wine. It’s training. When a restaurant has made this kind of investment, there’s a way higher level of training that goes into the servers, the bussers, the dishwashers. They have to clean these glasses carefully, so they don’t chip and break.”
According to Vora, a great wine list is far more than simply a grouping of expensive fine wines. It’s about the value of the wine for customers who come from different backgrounds and have varying spending ability.
“We have plenty of wine that’s very, very reasonable and fantastic,” said Vora. “If you get a $20 or a $30 bottle of a wine here, it drinks like $50 or $70 bottle of wine.
“When I taste wine if I want to know whether we’re going to put it on the list, I don’t want to know the price, nothing about it.”
While the wine list does contain many modestly prices options, it has its fair share of expensive treats. One in particular – the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, often abbreviated to DRC – runs anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 a bottle.
The restaurant only sells one or two bottles of DRC a year, but when it does, Vora said the servers definitely feel the pressure.
“They get the shakes because they’re afraid of opening it and breaking the cork or dropping the bottle,” Vora said, laughing, noting those servers received a nice tip that helped assuage their nerves after.
According to Vora, experiencing the different wines on the list, which come from various countries across Europe and North America, is a bit like being able to travel without leaving home.
“You could travel without leaving Lockhart just by dining here,” said Vora. “I want you to experience what it’s like to be pampered, and you can experience how you can see the world and how you can taste the world here. Wine is a big part of that.”
And for those looking to venture out and spend a little extra cash to boost their wine experience, Vora said he allows customers to return bottles if they don’t like it, as long as they purchase something else at a comparable price.
Receiving the award is great, Vora said, but to him, it’s more about the customers and the town he lives in than anything else.
“The reason I invested all this money into this wine program here in Lockhart is because I believe in this town,” said Vora. “I believe in the people that live here.
“I’m here for a different level of bringing something new.”