Placed next to the charcuterie and cheese board on the bar countertop at Main + Abbey were three glasses of wine – one white and two red.

Michael Hesebeck, the food and beverage manager at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City’s in-house gastro pub, explained in great detail the contents contained in each class and how they paired with the small servings of bite-sized food plated on the large wooden board presented in front of me and Todd Moyer, the general manager of Hard Rock.

While Hesebeck revealed the origins of each wine label, Moyer wasted no time in dividing the delicate food pairings arranged on the charcuterie and cheese board by Main + Abbey chefs. Slices of house-made pork pâté with blueberries, walnuts and applewood smoked bacon shared space with prosciutto rosettes, sliced Cambozola cheese and Tillamook sharp cheddar, pickled heirloom carrots, shallot marmalade, apricot mostarda, bacon jam, dried cranberries, rye roast and water crackers.

The first wine, the white, was a Negri Moscato d’Asti.

“One of my favorite wines,” said Hesebeck. “We’re actually importing that from Italy. It’s going to have some carbonation to it, which is really nice. Beautiful fruit forward. That one is going to pair really, really nicely with the apricot mostarda and the shallot marmalade.”

The second wine, a red, was a Duckhorn Merlot.

“It’s nice and jammy, fruit forward and it has a big body to it,” Hesebeck continued. “It pairs really well with the bacon jam and the pâté.”

Last was the Sean Minor Cabernet Sauvignon, an award-winning red wine that even caught the interest of Moyer, who asked for a two-ounce sample. This particular wine is one of many labels on Main + Abbey’s wine list from Napa, California.

The menu itself, which expands at Hard Rock’s newly added Wine Bar, is massive in size.

“We have quite a few things going on here, but it’s all designed to not only pair with wine but pair with each other, which is a lot of fun,” said Hesebeck.

Recently, the lifestyle magazine Wine Spectator presented Main + Abbey with an Award of Excellence. According to the publication’s website, the award is bestowed upon restaurants that “offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.”

Winners in Wine Spectators’ annual awards program were announced July 5. Hard Rock’s Main + Abbey was one of 2,335 restaurants across the United States to be given the Award of Excellence. Higher tier accolades like the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award were also given out to select restaurants.

Hesebeck and Moyer recently received the certificate, signifying the gastro pub’s latest honor. The award indicates Main + Abbey’s growth since the restaurant debuted its small list of about 20 or so wine labels. Moyer said the “genesis” of this menu (and Main + Abbey’s latest award) was established with the help of its food selection.

“We started with some pairings,” he said. “[Hesebeck] got to this point and said, ‘Look I think we can get an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.’ He came to me and said, ‘I’m going to need to add about 50 bottles to our inventory.’”

At least, that’s how Hesebeck sold the idea to Moyer. The food and beverage manager actually ended up with about 75 more bottles. Even though Main + Abbey built its identity as a beer-centric gastro pub, Hesebeck saw the potential to reach a market in Sioux City that loves to drink wine.

“And we have this incredible food menu that does really well with wine,” said Hesebeck. “For the guests that are really into wine, we have a reserve wine list. As [Moyer] said, we started adding more wines. Fifty was the goal and we essentially ended up with this list of probably 250 different wines on it that we started scaling back to get to this Main + Abbey reserve list.”

The Main +Abbey reserve list has 95 different bottles, which was unveiled at the end of January this year.

“We still have our staples like Sean Minor and the Duckhorn Merlot and the [Negri] Moscato, but we wanted to do more -- we wanted to do more in this restaurant,” said Hesebeck. “Ultimately, that’s what led to this Wine Spectator award.”

After we finished our wine and samples from the charcuterie and cheese board, Moyer and Hesebeck directed me to Hard Rock’s latest addition, a place that further accommodates Sioux City’s wine connoisseurs. And it’s simply called the Wine Bar.

The newly renovated area is subtle with its inclusion of casino games, having a dozen or so near the entrance. Keeping with Hard Rock’s music motif, the Wine Bar walls are adorned with guitars, drum kits and jackets from famous rock stars.

A large bar overlooks the slot machines, carrying with it a collection of liquor and wine bottles. Affixed on both ends of the bar are two silver vending machines. Open wine bottles equipped with nozzles stand upright behind a sheet of glass. Images of wine glasses of varying fullness appear on small LCD monitors above each label. Three buttons allow customers a choice between a sampling of a specific wine, a slightly larger tasting or a full glass.

“What’s really unique about this menu – besides being the storage system for Main + Abbey – there are these beautiful displays that showcase the wine,” said Hesebeck. “At Main + Abbey, we focus on glasses and bottles. Down here we have this really cool opportunity to offer samples of wine. You can tour and find specifically what it is that you’re looking for.”

Awaiting for us at the bar was a plate of Caprese bruschetta. And more wine. The food is unique to the Wine Bar and is partly made and arranged to pair with wine – we had the pleasure of drinking Red Zinfandel, a Pinot Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc. All of which were stored at the Wine Bar’s immense wine holding room – a dimly lit hallway filled top-to-bottom with wine, leading to the quiet and cozy VIP room called the Platinum Lounge.

“This allows the property’s regulars to come enjoy their own space and get away from it all,” said Hesebeck.

But you don’t have to be a rewards player or VIP to enjoy the tasty perks. Main +Abbey and Wine Bar prides itself in being versatile as the wine list for both locations continues to grow.

"There's something for everybody," said Hesebeck. "The heart of our wine list is being approachable and not being intimidated by price tag to try to different things."

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