Maximilian Kast of Fearrington House Inn, NC, on roving wine carts
Kast has been the wine director of the Fearrington House Inn, the “farm-to-fork” restaurant that belongs to a luxury bed-and-breakfast a few miles south of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for five years. His list has always been deep in curious finds—pelaverga by the glass, Franken rieslings—and it’s now supported by an army of roving wine carts. W&S Tasting Director Carson Demmond talked to him about his rising wine sales—and those carts.
It’s interesting, because we actually had fewer guests than in previous years; they just spent more. I think that people are more willing to spend money than they were in the past four years; they want to have a special wine or a special wine experience.
Our pairings have bumped up sales a lot as well. We have them listed on the menu with some verbiage: “Step into our sommelier’s perfect world” and “See what we would drink on our perfect night out.” We really want to make it what we would drink on our perfect night out. It’s good for so many reasons. The guest gets to try new stuff; we get to taste more from the cellar so that we know how more wines are showing right now; it’s good for training the staff.
We’ve brought in a whole bunch of carts, and wine pairings have gone up to about 37 percent of wine sales. They’re now more than our by-the-glass sales.
And that has changed our dynamic of service a lot. We customize pairings to the guests. Say you want to do a wine pairing, I’ll ask you what you don’t enjoy, and we build pairings up with things that might be new to you but that don’t fall into the category of things you don’t enjoy. And that goes into dessert wines as well. I’m always successful with Klein Constantia. I just put on the Orsolani Sule—which is an Erbaluce di Caluso Passito…people are really enjoying it.
We’re actually doing a lot more Sherry as a part of savory courses earlier on in the meal. We’re big Palo Cortado fans, like the El Maestro Sierra Palo Cortado. It goes great with our selection of cheeses. But it could go anywhere from smoked quail to richer lobster and veal dishes. Fino works great as an aperitif but also with scallop ceviche and lighter dishes. I list Bodegas Tradicion and, of course, Gonzales Byass.