Palm Springs has a veritable vino celebrity in the heart of downtown.
Zin American Bistro features one of the best wine lists in the nation, which has led to an Award of Excellence three consecutive years in a row from Wine Spectator — the most recent in 2017. These high honors hang on the bistro’s wall alongside nine other awards from Wine Spectator, whose editors review 15,000 wines each year in blind tastings and list 400 to 1,000 wine reviews in each issue of the magazine.
Mindy Reed, Zin’s owner, has a mind for business and a palate for fine wine. She has cultivated a diverse wine list with bottles from a vast array of regions for every budget and travels the world in search of the best new varietals to bring to her restaurant.
“I can find something awesome on my list at any price point,” Reed says. “Don’t assume that more expensive is better. You’re paying for the name, the private jet, the clout. There are smaller producers out there that are making incredible wines that you’ve never heard of that will blow your mind.”
VIDEO: Zin American Bistro owner Mindy Reed shares two of her favorite wines.
The results of Reed’s travels can be found in Zin Bistro’s magical room known as the wine cellar. Temperature controlled, the space is a wonderland of wine from all over the world filled with the vintages that make those Wine Spectator judges swoon.
Here, Reed breaks down Zin’s wine menu.
The usual suspects: “I’ve got the big names like Caymus and Stag’s Leap and Rombauer, of course. People love the big oaky chardonnay — we call Rombauer Chardonnay “Cougar Juice.”
Spanish wines: “Spanish wines are some of my favorites for the last few years. The value you get for the dollar is unbelievable. Many people think about French wines, but Spain, in my opinion, has stepped it up to a higher level and at a reasonable price.”
Zinfandel: “We sell a good bit of zin. We rotate the zinfandel on the menu every two weeks.”
Rosé: “Rosé is in all the time — all day, everyday. I’ve always sold quite a bit of rosé even before the trend. People are asking for rosé more now than they are asking for white zinfandel.”
Half-bottles: “I’m a big believer of half-bottles. I have an extensive collection — that way at dinner you can order a red and I can order a white.”
Small producers: “I’m looking for primarily wines off the beaten path. I love to introduce people to a varietal that they’ve never had in a region they’ve never visited.”
Vintages: “I’ve been collecting some wine, aging some wine, and now it’s ready and on the list. I didn’t want to sell it when it was too young.”
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Among her favorites from the cellar? Reed doesn’t stick to a specific varietal or region. “I love old wines,” she says. “I have been drinking a lot of older wines and last year I splurged and drank a lot of my birth vintages. My favorite wines right now are Cabernet Monastrell blends from Spain, Burgundy, Rhone varietals from Paso Robles— I probably have too many on my list; it’s a weakness, and who doesn’t love a big cab from California?”
Each month Zin Bistro hosts a wine dinner where guests can indulge in a multicourse dinner featuring a specific winery or varietal (dinners in the past have included rosé, beer, and cava). When creating a menu, Reed puts a lot of thought into wines that will pair with the dishes, but encourages people to drink what they like.
“By the glass, I try to make them really food friendly,” Reed says. “There is a trend right now, as much as I appreciate pairing, for people to drink what they like. If you hate red wine, we can find a wine to go with your food.”
For example, Reed says she was recently enjoying a steak dinner with a friend who avoids reds. Going against everything we’ve ever learned about pairing a heavy steak with a heavy red, they were able to decide on a bottle of white that Reed says paired perfectly with the steak.
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When creating a menu, Mindy Reed, owner of Zin American Bistro in downtown Palm Springs, puts a lot of thought into wines that will pair with the dishes, but encourages people to drink what they like.
“I picked a Ramey Chardonnay that is balanced, but is more on the buttery side,” she says. “The fat balance in the rib-eye with the chardonnay was pleasing and I have ordered it again with steak since then. You don’t always have to play by the rules. You can go outside the box, just follow the guidelines. How acidic is it? How buttery is it? What’s the alcohol content? Those things are as important as the color.”
While earning highly esteemed awards for an excellent wine list may be an honor, Reed creates her menu with customers in mind — not judges. “My passion is food and wine and seeing people happy,” says Reed. “I still have people who come in saying, ‘This is where I got engaged!’ or ‘We were here when you first opened and we had our first date here.’ To see them come back and have those memories of people, there are not a lot of places where you can have that.”
One way Reed keeps those customers happy and encourages repeat visits is by keeping prices affordable.
“I don’t believe you have to mark up wine. I don’t really buy into that. I’ll sell stuff for less because I want you to try it and enjoy it,” says Reed. This is why her wines by the glass are an attractive price — she doesn’t price them according to how much the full bottle costs.
If you’re new to wine, or don’t know where to start?
“Don’t be afraid to ask if there is a sommelier or someone who knows about the wine,” she says. “Many people are afraid to ask that question. Don’t be afraid to try a varietal you’ve never tried before. Always start with how much you want to spend and we can work from there.”
Zin American Bistro, 198 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-6300; pszin.com