I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the first detailed review of one of the restaurants.
With 39 wines on its list, 19 by the glass, Black Walnut Cafe offers the most options of the six primary restaurants in Coppell. It also is the only chain included in the review. And, it is also the only limited-service restaurant. Don’t let the fact that you order from counter and pick up your own food fool you, Black Walnut has a wide variety of high quality dining options, paired with full bar service.
Best Splurge: The Prisoner. Although there are other top quality bottles on the Black Walnut list (Jordan Cabernet, Surh Luchtel Pinot Noir, and Shafer Chardonnay), at $57 The Prisoner leads the pack in terms of value for the money. The average retail price for this wine is $42, so the markup is only 36% above retail. The red blend Zinfandel-based Prisoner was created by Dave Phinney of Orin Swift Cellars as an experiment and was recently sold to a third party who created The Prisoner Wine Company around the label. It remains a consistent 90+ rated wine. You should find this wine to be bursting with blackberry and dark cherry fruit, with a little hint of licorice and pepper.
Best Budget Bottles: Montes Malbec, J.Lohr Cabernet, Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, and Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay. If you are looking for a budget bottle of red that is a bit different from the California reds, the Montes Malbec is a good choice. At $24 ($11 average retail), you will find a great deal of fruit for the price, coupled with a solid shot of oak and cedar. The $29 J. Lohr Paso Robles Cabernet ($16 average retail) is a bit lighter and sweeter than a traditional Napa or Sonoma Cabernet (think about it as more blueberry and vanilla than blackberry and spice), but still a nice value for the price. For those opting for a white, The $26 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc ($11 average retail) is refreshing wine, especially in the hot Texas summers, with a slightly tart grapefruit and mineral appeal. Year-after-year, Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay is a consistent winner at a budget price. At $29 per bottle ($12 average retail), the markup on this wine is a tad more than the other budget bottles on this list, but as the Chardonnay that other budget Chardonnays are frequently compared against, it is worth it.
Best Red by the Glass: Black Stallion Cabernet. Yes, at $13.50 per glass it’s the most costly red by the glass at Black Walnut, but this true Napa Cabernet rivals other Napa cabs found at twice the price. Named because the winery is built in an old equestrian center on the Silverado Trail, the Black Stallion has a deeper complexity than any other red by the glass at Black Walnut, rich with blackberry, black currant, spice and mocha. If you are looking for a red by the glass for a little less cash, the J. Lohr is also sold by the glass at $10 or you could try the Estancia Pinot Noir, also at $10 a glass.
Best White by the Glass: Geyser Peak Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc. At $7.50 a glass, the light, crisp and dry Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc is easily the best value of any wine by the glass at Black Walnut. If you are looking for a white by the glass with more depth, the Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay is also sold by the glass at $10.50.
Wines I Would Avoid: As mentioned in the overview to this series, the La Terre wines (Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet) are not only three of the most poorly rated of any wines in Coppell, at $6.50 a glass, each glass will cost you more than you would spend for the entire bottle at retail. If you multiply the cost of the glass times five (the average number of glasses in a bottle) and then compare that cost to the cost of a bottle at retail, the La Terre Merlot and Cabernet by the glass carry a whopping 550% markup above the bottle cost at retail. And Black Walnut is paying less than retail for that bottle, so the true markup is greater than that. I also would avoid the Sycamore Lane White Zinfandel, another wine that will cost you more for the glass than the entire bottle costs at retail (plus, even for a white zin, it is way too sweet). Although McWilliams does make some nice wines, the basic McWilliams Shiraz sold at Black Walnut is very inconsistent. If you are going to get a French Bordeaux, spend the money to get one of quality and value, not the budget offering from Lafite, which has been rated as low as 81 in recent years.
The best part of the wine offerings at the Black Walnut Cafe is the wide variety in both bottles and by-the-glass coupled with the restaurant’s casual atmosphere.
If you have any comments or questions on any of the posts in this Coppell restaurant series, please feel free to leave a comment to these posts or hit me up on Twitter at @erikj. Also, if you have other area restaurants that you would like to see evaluated for wine offerings, please let me know! The links to all posts in this series appear below.
Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: