Wine & Food

Snooth User: EMark

Interesting Wine Service Idea

Posted by EMark, Aug 6, 2013.

I stumbled onto this article in the Los Angeles Times about a restaurant in Santa Monica that offers wines from casks.  In reading the article it sounds like their wine lists gives a general description of the available wines--e.g., "2009 Cabernet from Chalk Hill in Sonoma County"--and the diner can order a glass, a half-carafe or a full carafe. 

The apparent benefit to the restaurant are (1) lower costs, and (2) simplified storage. 

For the consumer the benefits would be (1) lower price and (2) flexibility in ordering. 

We had a conversation here some time ago when I asked why more restaurants did not offer wines by the half-bottle.  The collective Snooth wisdom advised me that the storage of the 375 ml bottles would be an aggravation that most restaurants would not want to have when compared to whatever additional revenue they my realize by selling half-bottles to people like me.

This cask idea gives the restaurant a consistent storage plan with the flexibility of multiple service options for the consumer.

I see terrific benefits for the consumer--a person dining alone can order by the glass or half-carafe; two-somes can order a half-carafe of white for one person and a half-carafe of red for the other person; or they can order a split a half-carafe of one wine for a first course and a half-carafe of something else for a second course.

The real test though is will this pull in customers?  In all honesty, I don't see any reason to drive across town to try this restaurant.  If there was one with this concept maybe 15 or 20 minutes away, I might try it.

Here's the other thing,  In the last paragraph of the article,

An all-cask restaurant is an interesting concept, one that will very much depend on customers leaving labels, wine scores and prejudices behind and trusting their own palates. Will they be able to do it?

The chance of "customers leaving labels, wine scores and prejudices behind?"  In my opinion, fat and slim.

Replies

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 6, 2013.

Thanks for the link Mark, I might just have to try it.  Makes enterting TN's into CellarTracker a bit difficult though. Also finding more for yourself would be rough. The good thing is I like to see a restaurant make a big effort into their wine program, so I have to give props to this guy for at least trying to do something big and innovative.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 6, 2013.

LA thinks it invents everything, and so does NYC, but the topic was raised here before. I referenced it in another thread, but seem not to have made my own comment that Southie and Wood Tavern, side by side sister restaurants in Oakland both have wine on tap, and lots of places in SF have it.  Gather in Berkeley also has wines on tap.  Donkey and Goat, Unti, and other not-huge wineries do it.  Freeflow Wines is the main equipment and bottling outfit; restaurant partners include some big outfits.  It has many advantages.  One of them is that two people can easily handle 500 ml and still drive home, while 375 is to small and 750 a bit much.  Also gives you better opportunities to mix BTG orders and small carafes to match courses.  For restaurants, I think it will become more common and could raise the quality level at some larger chain restos for their "house" wines.

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 6, 2013.

Still, the guy has a track record w/ FO and is committing to the tanks exclusively.

"Seems like a praisable practice." Will be interesting to see how they do.

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Reply by gregt, Aug 7, 2013.

The kegs that beer comes in work very well. Cuts costs way down and eliminates spoilage.

I don't think labels are necessarily an issue - if you order the house wine, you're not too worried about a label. It's not uncommon in Europe to have bulk wines like that - surely all those leftist intellectuals in Parisian cafes aren't drinking La Tache! Most of the Cotes du Rhone and stuff from the south of France was made for those kinds of drinkers, in Spain and Italy there's a lot of wine made for those purposes. Believe it or not,  the people who buy labels are a really small minority of wine drinkers. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 7, 2013.

Definitely made me think France too Greg, where I've heard most restaurants take pride in their house wine, often sourcing the grapes themselves working with the growers/producers. Had a great example at a little cafe in Nice a couple years back, they even served their house red slightly chilled! I was with my wife and two other gals we met on the cruise ship and everyone loved the wine and the non seriousness of not ordering a bottle or messing with a wine list. Fun memory.

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Reply by gregt, Aug 7, 2013.

And remember that Lyon, the center of French cooking, was the main market for Beaujolais. Many of France's greatest chefs come from Lyon, where they learned from their mothers (not cooking schools) and the local wine is just great. Sure you can get high-end stuff, but mostly what people drink as I recall was village-level Beaujolais. Enjoyable, good, not intellectual, and a beverage, not an experience. Actually, that's probably what I'd get in casks if I had a restaurant.


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