You run an all-domestic wine list at One Market. What are some of the most exciting trends you’re seeing right now in relation to wines on the West Coast?
I am seeing a shift with chardonnay styles. Guests are looking for more of a traditional chardonnay, not quite as oaky and buttery, a bit more balanced, crisp and dry.
Also, guests are coming in looking for older vintages of both chardonnay and reds, especially cabs. I tell them: in California, we are very thirsty—wine doesn’t last long around here! Most 2007s, for me, are gone already. With some wineries, we’re even on the 2010s.
I’m trying to set up relationships with wineries and ask about library wines, and it’s difficult, because unless it’s a bigger house, they . . . Continue reading →
What’s the biggest change you’ve noted in recent months?
Champagne has come roaring back. It was like a dirty word for eighteen months. There was a serious decline in luxury goods—something that was maybe not as much about the money as it was about not being in the spirit of things. I mean, it feels funny, maybe, to order a bottle of Champagne when your friend has been laid off. But now, tasting menus, Champagne, luxury spirits: they’ve all come roaring back.
The category we’ve seen with the biggest comeback is spirits. We’ve been doing cocktails since 1993, when Dale Degroff came and did an event. But luxury straight spirits hadn’t really come back until recently. We launched an event—The Spirit Project at Casa Lombardi—featuring a single bottle . . . Continue reading →
You reported that your wine prices have gone up but sales have remained steady.
We actually had the best year ever last year—it’s not that we were just holding steady; we were breaking records. I think that a lot of diners have been feeling very conservative with their dollars, and so they are wanting a consistent, solid [restaurant] rather than a new place. It’s like, “If I’m going to spend $100, I’m going to a place that’s really going to stand up; I’m going to go for consistency over newness.”
Does that attitude extend to wine?
In our particular environment, people are pretty adventurous with their wine dollars, but I think again it’s because we get out the decanters, we have the glassware, we . . . Continue reading →
What’s been the biggest change you’ve noticed over the past year?
I think a great trend we’ve been experiencing over past years is a huge increase in pairings. Five years ago our guests ordered pairings with a degustation menu perhaps 20 percent of the time; now it’s 50-70 percent. On the floor, sommeliers used to recommend a good Burgundy with dinner, now it’s down to the course. That means the pairing part of our job permeates through entire operation.
How has that played out?
I spend so much more time with the food and the wines. I used to taste a dish once and have it locked in my memory. Now I taste with my chef daily, sometimes more than once a day during service, or I have to taste the . . . Continue reading →
You list a number of Burgundies among your top-ten best sellers.
The high-end wines have started to move again, particularly Burgundy, which had slowed down. The middle range, from $70 to $120, doesn’t move as quickly. And there’s a keen appreciation of any wine that’s not expensive. There was a time before 2008 when I would have to mark a wine up more than I should have, because people wouldn’t buy it. They thought it was too cheap. That’s not the case now.
Chez Panisse had a nice collection of cellared wine, those wines are going, they’re selling quickly. I’m selling more Burgundy from the cellar, in the $60 to $90 range for white and $100 to $150 for red, that’s 90 percent of what I’m offering people. There are some . . . Continue reading →