Kevin Zraly

During his three-decade reign at Windows on the World Restaurant, Kevin Zraly created the wine list with the largest sales in the country. Before Kevin Zraly, it is fair to say that the average American restaurant did not pay much attention to wine. Americans, after all, used to prefer spirits with their supper; today a good wine list is considered an integral part of any memorable restaurant experience. By the year 2000, Windows on the World Restaurant was the top-grossing restaurant in the United States, with reported revenues of $37.5 million. Through the restaurant, Kevin Zraly launched his hugely successful Windows on the World Wine School.

Kevin Zraly found his calling while studying elementary education and tending bar at an upstate New York restaurant. He read anything he could about wine, pasted wine labels in a journal and made pilgrimages to New York vineyards. During the summer of his 21st birthday, he hitchhiked to California to visit its vineyards and shortly thereafter went to Europe to do the same. By the time he was 24, Kevin Zraly had been everywhere fine wine was made.

At a time when serious restaurants had only French wines on their lists, Kevin Zraly was featuring California Chardonnays. “Kevin really put America on the map,” says Rebecca Chapa, a Zraly disciple and the former sommelier at New York’s Montrachet and San Francisco’s Jardini