James Beard 2015 Beverage Winners

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The James Beard Foundation has acknowledged excellent beverage professionals and programs since 1991. This year’s crop of nominees in all categories was nothing short of outstanding. Here are the winners.

Outstanding Bar Program: The Violet Hour, Chicago (pictured above)
The venerable Chicago speakeasy has been nominated every year since the foundation started celebrating outstanding bar programs in 2012. It’s the second award for a Chicago cocktail bar during the same time period; The Aviary won in 2013. Read more about both bar programs in our May/June feature on Chicago cocktails. The other finalists in the category included Trick Dog in San Francisco, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, Bar Agricole in San Francisco and Maison Premiere in New York City.

Outstanding Wine Program: A16, San Francisco
San Francisco’s A16 has been a wine program powerhouse since opening in 2004. The Italian restaurant has been nominated a total of six other times, including two nods for wine director and owner Shelley Lindgren in the outstanding wine service category. For many, it’s not just the excellent variety and quality of the wines offered, but the knowledgeable and helpful staff that helps bring the menu to life. Other programs in the running included Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, FIG Charleston, McCrady’s also in Charleston, and Spago in Beverly Hills.

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional: Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco
San Francisco’s Rajat Parr is the wine director for the Mina Group and a full-time winemaker for both Domaine de la Cote in Santa Barbara and Seven Springs in Oregon. He was also nominated in the category in 2011. Other finalists for the award included Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Ron Cooper of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Ted Lemon of Littorai Wine and Harlen Wheatley from Buffalo Trace Distillery.