More often than not, a raucous good time at Jimmy’s is fueled by the bar’s mind-spinning array of tequila and mezcal—108 bottles and counting. But spirits are ghosts with respect to the Aspen institution’s latest claim to fame: a world-class wine list recognized with a 2015 Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence.
The distinction—earned by only 972 other restaurants in the world, including Ellina in Aspen, and more prestigious than the magazine’s Award of Excellence, which Jimmy’s program has earned regularly since 2004—indicates impressive varietal and vintage depth. And it puts Jimmy’s within shouting distance of the even more rarefied Grand Award, whose fewer than 100 recipients include Element 47 at the Little Nell, where Jimmy’s wine and beverage director Greg Van Wagner worked previously as maître d’hôtel.
Maintaining a champion wine list of 550 to 650 selections spanning every major wine region requires constant evolution, according to Van Wagner, one of four certified sommeliers on staff at Jimmy’s and Jimmy’s Bodega. (Five introductory sommeliers serve both venues, too.) Domestic varietals (Napa cabernet, Oregon and Washington pinot) and Rhône classics figure prominently for their aptness to pair with Jimmy’s signature steaks, but Van Wagner’s list also reflects more avant-garde offerings, such as gamay and cabernet franc.
Imbibers will find the list remarkably accessible. Every label is available by the half bottle for half price; the Coravin corkless preservation system keeps remaining wine fresh for months. Van Wagner might even pour the rest of pricier bottles à la carte. “If somebody does order a half bottle of 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild,” he explains, “another guest is gonna get a great deal on a glass of it.”