Monday, October 29, 2012

Sommelier Service Question:

Sommelier Service Question:
For my past birthday, my wife and I went to Las Vegas and she took me to dinner at a very nice hotel restaurant.

We brought along a bottle of Sea Smoke Ten to enjoy with our meal. But before we went to the restaurant, as I always do, I called ahead and asked about corkage fees etc. I was told that the wine could not be on their wine list and that it had to be approved ahead of time. In addition the corkage fee was $50.

I asked for it to be approved and they connected me with their Sommelier. I informed him of the wine and he said it is not on their list and it would be fine to bring to dinner.

We arrived at dinner; the Sommelier came over to our table, opened our wine and poured a glass for each of us. That was the last time we saw him. There were times during the dinner that our glasses were empty and wanted a refill, and we waited- no one came by. So I ended up refilling our glasses the entire dinner.

As a Certified Sommelier myself, I found this appalling. A $50 fee for opening our wine, the least that he could have done would be to refill our wine glasses. Mind you, we had an early seating (5:30) and the restaurant was not even ½ full.

Do you think I am over reacting? What do you expect from a Sommelier at a 5 star restaurant?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Oakville… Stags Leap…. Rutherford…. Yountville…. Calistoga…. Coombsville? HUH?

Oakville… Stags Leap…. Rutherford….  Yountville…. Calistoga…. Coombsville? HUH?

Yes last December Coombsville can stand be added to the AVAs of the Napa Valley.

This, 11,000-acre rural region just east of the city of Napa recently became the 16th AVA in Napa County. Named for Nathan Coombs, a prominent community leader and founder of Napa (1847), Coombsville has long been regarded as a superb spot for growing grapes but was somewhat out of the way from the mainstream wine-making centers.

Today more than 20 wineries are producing wines in Coombsville.

Generally hilly with vineyards at varying elevations, the area is protected from the wind by ridges, knolls and mountains, and the soil is a mix of ancient volcanic ash and rocky alluvial soils. The microclimates appear ideal for the production of elegant red wines.

You won't find big hotels, restaurants, shops or wineries in Coombsville. Instead, they will discover pastoral winding roads, a few houses dotted here and there, and select vineyard-wineries hidden from view.

There are also no crowds, lines of cars or limos — it's just Napa's backyard. The few visitors who discover Coombsville will be rewarded with a very mellow wine-tasting experience — by appointment only.

Here are some of the wineries in Coombsville to check out.

Meteor Vineyard is a gorgeous vineyard property off Third Street and produces some of the most outstanding cabernets in Napa Valley. Walk through the vineyards and experience the breadth and scope of Coombsville; you can see Mount George in the north, the Vaca Mountain range to the east and the Carneros region to the southwest.

Black Cat Vineyard, run by irrepressible owner/winemaker Tracey Reichow, is a spot to slow down and enjoy wine and conversation with the winemaker. It's her house, after all, and she treats visitors like long-lost friends.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What is America Drinking in 2012?

A recently published study by a wine distributor showed the current trends in wines sales in the United States this year.

The top five brands were Barefoot, Franzia, Yellow Tail, Kendall-Jackson and Sutter Home. Only the Kendall-Jackson cost more than $10 a bottle, and the Franzia (which comes in a five-liter box) was about $2 a bottle.

Only eight of the 89 brands in the report cost more than $15 a bottle, and only one cost more than $20 a bottle.

The average price for the top 89 brands was about $7 a bottle, more or less the average price of a bottle of wine sold in the U.S.

The top 10 brands were not natural or boutique or artisan, but made by the biggest multi-national companies in the world, including E&J Gallo (Barefoot and Gallo Family) and Constellation (Woodbridge and Clos du Bois).

In the Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2011, only nine cost less than $20, only one cost less than $10, and only two were regional wines. In other words, almost the exact opposite of the real world.

Yes, this may not be an exact comparison, since the Spectator list measures "quality." But that itself is significant, since it says that the wine that most of us drink is inferior and doesn't cost enough. That's a stunning assumption to make, and exists almost nowhere but wine.

What are you drinking this year?



Monday, February 27, 2012

Look out... here comes the Chinese.... again! Hide the Pinot Noir quick!

Chinese investors have bought five more Bordeaux chateaux in recent weeks, according to reports.

A further 12 are likely to be bought by Chinese buyers in the near future, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce says.

Chateau du Grand Moueys, a 170-hectare estate in Entre-Deux-Mers, was acquired last week by Hong Kong-based Zhang Jinshan.

Qu Nai Jie, president of the Haichang Group, has already snapped up nearby Chateau de Grand Branet as well as Chateau Branda, Chateau Laurette and Chateau Thebot. He is reportedly interested in more acquisitions.

Some Chinese owners devote their entire output to exports to China, but Grand Moueys will sell up to 20% of its wine in Europe and the US, according to an AFP report.

In a somewhat related news story: Bordeaux's classified growths have approved the first-ever standardized Chinese translation of their names, auction house Christie's has unveiled an official translation of each of the 61 chateaux in the 1855 classification, after 12 months of collaboration with the Medoc estates.

Christie's staff have worked with chateaux to agree on Chinese translations for their estate while others already had Chinese names. However, some chateaux including Cos d'Estournel have opted not to take a Chinese name.

The Chinese translations have been published on a poster, which will be unveiled to the Bordeaux trade during the 2012 En Primeur week.

Christie's hopes to produce similar translations for producers in Sauternes, Bordeaux's right bank and Burgundy in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

World of Pinot Noir March 2-3

World of Pinot Noir organizers are expecting close to 2,000 people in and around Shell Beach next week to celebrate the popular grape.

The annual gathering, now in its 12th year, attracts pinot noir producers and consumers who are fans of the wine.

About one-third of them are from San Luis Obispo County. Most others are from other parts of the state, but some will travel from as far away as New Zealand, New York and Florida.

“Our guests are looking for an experience,” said Damon Miele, event coordinator. “We definitely draw a lot of industry people. The person behind the tables pouring the wine has to be a winemaker or principle.”

About 100 wineries will be featured at various events March 2 and 3, based around the Cliffs Resort.

Events range from an $8.30-per-person discussion on the role of pinot in sparkling wines to a $400 dinner at Lido Restaurant featuring vintage wines from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

For additional information go to:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOMM... the movie

You have seen Sideways, Montevino and Bottleshock, bur are you ready for SOMM?

The story of four sommeliers as they prepare for the toughest est know  to man, the Master Sommelier Exam!

SOMM Documentary Trailer 1 from Forgotten Man Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Restaurant wine prices

How many time have you been out to dinner and ordered a bottle of wine off the wine list and were blown away by the markup of the price of the bottle. We recently went to a local restaurant and when looking at the bottle price of some of my favorite wines (that I have at home in my cellar). A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, available at Costco for about $9 a bottle, was selling for $27 a bottle. Should you be shocked? Well, lets look at the math and also compare with other available drinks at your local restaurant.

That wine was marked up 3-times the wholesale price. How about a bottle of beer? Well, a domestic beer was selling at the same place for $5.75 a bottle. You can buy a 6-pack of the same beer at your local grocery store for the same price as a single bottle! That is a mark up of…… 6 times. (No high level math here).

How about soft drinks, $3.50 a glass for a Pepsi or Coke, refills usually cost the same too. How much do you think THAT markup is? Then we go to Ice Tea…. Do you even want to think about the mark up on that item?

So while paying $27 for a bottle of $9 wine in a restaurant might seem out of line, when compared to other drinks, it isn’t such a bad deal. Also, most restaurants let you bring in a bottle of wine and charge you a corkage fee. Normally it is around $12 a bottle. Add that to the cost of the wine you brought from home, and it is still a deal. (I don’t think I have ever seen anybody bring into a restaurant a bottle of sun tea to drink.)

Restaurants are not high margin businesses and there are many costs associated with running a restaurant that go into the cost of that bottle of wine. From things as basic as stemware (and associated breakage) to training, cost of carrying inventory, etc that makes that bottle cost more in a restaurant than in a retail store.

So next time you go out to dinner, check out the wine list, try a wine that you do not have at home, enjoy the meal, enjoy the wine, enjoy who you are with and have fun.