Friday, May 29, 2009

Brown Bagging, wine style!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a great article today about bringing your own wine to a restaurant. I TOTALLY approve of this! There are several ways to look at this. As an example, restaurant Au Rendez-Vous (near Brookhaven) only has a few wines on the list and they actually encourage you to bring your own for $4 corkage fee per person. They (and other restaurants that don't have beer/wine licenses) are able to pull in a few more dollars based on their limited wines, etc. An example of another restaurant "mindset", Susie and I were regulars at one restaurant in Kennesaw but for a while their wine list was very limited. We discovered that they would only charge $15 for corkage fee (translation: a charge for the restaurant for opening your bottle (yep, even if it's a screwtop!) and providing glassware, service, etc.) so we started taking our own which a) saved us money b) kept us happy (better wines than they provided) and c) actually kept us COMING as we would most likely not have returned due to their old list). So corkage could be seen as a supplement to a wine list.

People, I know restaurants are in business to make money. I know that they normally 'make up' their margins on wine. However, the third mindset covers GREED. I get SO angry when I see ridiculous markups! Keep an eye out for some of your common restaurant wines--Take La Crema Pinot Noir as an example. It's currently $15.97 at Total Wine & More. Well, we recently have seen it go for $55 at an East Cobb restaurant, $60 in Buckhead and a CRAZY $70 at a well-known luxury resort/hotel about an hour East of Atlanta. It really annoys me to see that (another common one is Ravenswood's entry Zinfandel ("Vintners Blend, $5.97 at Bullocks) for $30 or more???). One notable restaurant chain going against this trend is Houstons. I have bought some amazing wines for what appeared to barely be over cost! I remember one dinner at the now-closed Dunwoody location--we had Nickel & Nickel Merlot (or Cab Franc?) for under $50, which was astounding knowing that the store price (IF you could find it) was around $40.

As the article notes, DON'T abuse this by bringing your cheap wine (2 Buck Chuck?) or some super-common wine that can be found anywhere or even on their menu (Kendall-Jackson chardonnay for example). I would bring wines that I knew they wouldn't have (like ATP Wines from Ridge) or a rare single-vineyard designate Ravenswood (usu. over $35) versus their Vintners Blend (under $7, unless you're crazy enough to pay more at the grocery). How about thinking of a bringing a wine with a minimum price point of $20 or more? Likewise, Chops allowed us to bring a special bottle to dinner when my parents came to town (caveat-I THINK they would have limited us to only 1 or 2 bottles at their corkage fee, somewhere around $20). We still bought a follow-up bottle from their list, but we were able to decant and enjoy a rare Sonoma Cabernet from 1997 which was a special wine for my family.

Moral of the story? Reward the restaurants whose prices are in-line or simply never return. But as the article said, tip as if you bought it from them (though I would venture a thought that I would tip an amount based on the retail price, not what they'd rape me for if I bought it there!) Cheap? Okay, I'll admit it... But at the same time, I will pay for good food and good service. I just hate paying too much for something that is just as important as the food--the wine itself! Cheers, Bo

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Read this article! Try something new... (Ideas for Memorial Day wines!)

This article was written by Teresa Eiland from the Piedmont Road Tower Wine & Spirits. It is very well written and I feel that it's spot-on with its message. The message? Drink wine, don't be afraid to try new things. It's not about silly names and catchy labels; it's what is INSIDE the bottles that gets me excited! When I see high ratings on wines under $10 I get excited--there is a lot of quality out there amongst the overpriced wines.

2 wines she mentioned are stellar grape varietals. I love Cabernet Franc; it's a fun wine that is lighter in character than Cabernet Sauvignon (so it can be a bit more food-friendly and "quaffable"). Give it a shot, you'll probably be a convert! Likewise, Vernaccia is an Italian hottie. Yes, the supermodel (Pinot Grigio) gets all the recognition, but Vernaccia is the girl next door that will surprise and amaze you. Have some chilled and on hand this weekend! Cheers, Bo

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I love Zinfandel! ZAP was WOW!

We attended the ZAP tour last night and I really enjoyed the event! It was not too big/crowded and there were a lot of quality producers in attendance. I am biased, of course, as I love our native American grape, Zinfandel. It's a great food-friendly wine and can be produced in several styles. I tend to like the more full-bodied "spicy" type vs. the 'fruit bomb' variety. Some standouts from last night? As always, my 2 favorite producers Ridge and Ravenswood were awesome, and enjoyed some 'old friends' like Renwood as well. In fact, when I visited the Ravenswood table, I met the Zinderella of Zin herself, Cathleen Francisco. No, you may not know her, but I have emailed her about their wines for over 3 years and this was the first time we had met in person! YUMMY wines and always great, from their $7 'vinter's blend' to their incredible single vineyard designates like Belloni, Teldeschi and Big River, to name the 3 she brought.

I did try a lot of new juice and found some standouts. Among them was D-cubed Cellars; the name stands for the winemaker's initials (DDD). I loved the 2005 Howell Mountain (yes, the same Howell Mountain of Cabernet fame). Another Howell Mountain producer was Lamborn Family Vineyards. In a word, WOW. Both of those were in the $40 (and you're surprised?) as was the Renwood Jack Rabbit (single vineyard) which was great! Fritz Winery's 2006 reserve was nice (gee, another $40 bottle). Haywood Estate Winery showed up with 3 examples from their Los Chamizal Vineyard in Sonoma; all three were excellent and it was amazing to see how the same grapes/vineyard were so different mainly due to the placement of the vines (for example, a higher elevation was different than the valley; and the 'Morning Sun' had more fruit due to the concentration of the sun). While those three were around $30, they brought along another product line, Z-52, which was a bit more fruit forward but also under $20--what's not to love? Finally, Tres Sabores had a 2006 estate as well as a blend called Por que no?--fun stuff! I need to keep my eyes open to some of these new producers! Just to toss some additional names in the mix, look for Hook & Ladder (you may remember them as Deloach from years ago) and Peachy Canyon from Paso Robles (yum!) Look for my other posting with info from ZAP ("Zinfandel Advocates and Producers") for a list of who came to ATL and links to their websites. Support these awesome vineyards! Cheers, Bo

Friday, May 8, 2009

ZAP!!! Zinfandel Lovers Unite!

If you love Zinfandel like I do, you need to attend ZAP's Zinfandel Festival on Tuesday the 12th. I will be there with my family; you should attend too! We are talking about the lucious deep RED zinfandel, the native American grape and lover of food (i.e. it goes well with many types of food, especially spicy food and BBQ). For more info, click HERE. Cheers, Bo To purchase tickets, click HERE (or buy at the door if there are any left--this is the first time the ZAP tour has come to ATL--come join us!)