Rogue Grapevine: A world-class wine list

Molly Shaughnessy is Larks restaurant manager and sommelier. Neuman Hotel Group photo
July 18, 2022

Larks named to prestigious Wine Spectator Restaurant Award list

By MJ Daspit

According to Wine Spectator magazine, the restaurant associated with the Ashland Springs Hotel, Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine, offers exactly that: a world-class wine list. Larks is among the restaurants in some 70 countries worldwide to receive a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award for 2022 as announced on June 27.

MJ Daspit

The credit for Larks’ Award of Excellence is largely down to Molly Shaughnessy, Larks Restaurant Manager and Sommelier. Molly hails from Redding, California, and became a Rogue Valley resident during her undergraduate education at Southern Oregon University where she earned a degree in theater arts. She learned about wines while working at Amuse Restaurant, an education that continued in Germany and California where her husband’s army career later took her. Having joined the Larks staff a few years back, Shaughnessy has presided over the wine list since 2021. Remarkably, that list stands recognized as one of the world’s finest only a year later.

Molly Shaughnessy is Larks restaurant manager and sommelier. Neuman Hotel Group photo

Wine Spectator is a national publication focused on all things wine. The magazine holds an annual restaurant competition that Shaughnessy entered by submitting the current dinner menu, wine list and a one-page cover letter describing storage conditions, inventory, pricing and a major consideration that guides her wine selections: sustainability. What does that mean, exactly? To quote from an introduction to the list, sustainability refers to “a commitment to the land by which our local farmers and purveyors make a living. Sustainable farming practices are used throughout the Rogue Valley and in the produce we hand select for our menu. Our wine list is a reflection of our cuisine and our dedication to promoting sustainability in our region.”

The vast majority of the labels on Shaughnessy’s wine list bear symbols denoting certifications as to their vineyard practices including LIVE, Napa Green, organic and Demeter (biodynamic).

Comprising a pared-down array of wines, the list is refreshingly short and sweet. Shaughnessy offers classic varietals from signature regions (Fance, Italy, Spain, Argentina), along with California and Oregon versions of those same varietals. The result is like a guided tour that takes you to must-see spots, rather than just giving you a map covering 500 square miles. Shaughnessy says this strategy gives the wine list credibility. Seeing those classic varietals from exemplary regions on the list, she explains, visitors coming from Portland, Seattle or California have confidence that the Southern Oregon bottles of those same varietals will show well by comparison. The local wines on Shaughnessy’s list are from Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, Kriselle Cellars, Troon Vineyard, Quady North, Upper Five Vineyard and Winery, and Plaisance Ranch.

Shaughnessy says the length of the list also reflects a practical approach. “It’s driven by the fact that we’re in a very old building. The Ashland Springs Hotel was built in 1924. We don’t have the space nor can we build the space for expansive wine storage. So I had to be succinct with the list. I didn’t want to have people labor over what to choose, I just wanted the ability to pull out a wine at any occasion and know it’s going to be good.”

With the addition of Larks, Ashland now boasts two restaurants on the list, joining Alchemy Restaurant and Bar in the exclusive club. Alchemy was first named to the list in 2015. The next closest restaurants on the list are in Bend and in Eureka, California, with one restaurant in each. Other than Ashland, the only other Oregon city with multiple restaurants on the list is Portland, which has four.

As a final note, I offer my sincere apologies to Miss LeGoff, my high school French teacher. She provided me with a smattering of knowledge that would have been useful in Carcassonne, provided the conversation didn’t go much beyond what happened to a generic lad, Alain Charpentier, on a typical school day—as in, “Le chien a mangé mes devoirs.” Miss LeGoff also made sure her students knew the days of the week and the months of the year. So I have no excuse for misspelling Juillet, specifically identifying Bar Juillet as Bar Julliet in last month’s column. Sorry! As suggested by Samuel Beckett, next time I’ll try to fail better.

Ashland resident MJ Daspit is a freelance journalist and longtime writer on the Rogue Valley wine scene. Email her at mdaspit@jeffnet.org.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
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