Best Wine List (Oakland County)
Restaurateur Jim Lark knows wine. He reads an untold number of wine publications. Travels to France yearly (“at least”) to visit vineyards. Meets with wholesale distributors. Goes to trade tastings. He is a master sommelier of French wines. But the last thing Jim Lark wants is for customers to feel uncomfortable in his restaurant. The Lark is a top-rated European-style country inn located in West Bloomfield. It has a national and international reputation. Jim Lark says, “We know that many people come for special occasions. A birthday, an anniversary. The last thing we want is for them to feel intimidated by a big fat book of wine.” Believing that the wine list should be a part of the menu, Jim Lark lists 100 wines on the back of the restaurant’s fixed-price menu, which changes every other month. The list emphasizes Californian and French wines, equally split between white and red, with most under $75 per bottle, and 10 available by the glass. The reserve list of another 910 wines is enumerated in one of those big, fat, intimidating books. But Jim Lark, who is the restaurant’s maitre d’ as well as its sommelier, prides himself on knowing his customers. “I talk to my patrons,” he says. “I get a sense of who might like to see the reserve list.” One of The Lark’s innovations is a “wine bouquet” — four glasses of different wines to accompany each course. This package enables diners to get appropriate wines for four courses at a reasonable price. For $27.50, diners begin with Roederer Brut Champagne (“top rated,” says Lark), then a choice of any of 10 wines available by the glass with the appetizer and another with the main course, and finally a choice of two dessert wines.