Wine Talk

Snooth User: Faron S

What you'd like to see in Wine Bars

Original post by Faron S, Aug 13, 2010.

What are the "must-have-wines" when you visit a wine bar?  Or just stuff you'd really like to see. This can become tricky with "by-the-glass" stuff, because I imagine people can become quite cautious with a glass of wine above the $12 figure. Any insights??


Reply by JamesR, Aug 15, 2010.

Here's a tough answer. I like to get wine that I typically cannot find at my local wine shop or at least is not commonly available. The wine bar is my chance to explore. What this means is I tend to hit the wine bars out of town and not in town. So the way my local wine bar can keep my interest is for a nice quiet setting. I can't enjoy the wine with friends if it is just too noisy.


Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Aug 15, 2010.

I could just be being a douchebag, but does anyone else think Layer Cake Malbec, and their lineup in general, is really just...bad (and it's not just because it's lower-priced and easily accesable)?

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 15, 2010.

I like there to be a theme as some have said before

Pick a theme that works with your philosophy for the enjoyment of wine

Once you get the theme in place, select a range of wines that go with the theme.  Give people plenty of choice across all price points and regions/countries that work with the theme.

I always think you need to have some Sparkling white and beer available and a couple of out of theme choices [there is always one in every group]

Wine by the glass is tough.  I yearn for lots of choice but despise glasses from bottles open for too long.  I don't know the solution other than maybe going with 187/200ml bottles.  We are seeing that for a lot of NV Champagne, Australian Sparkling white and Italian Prosecco's here in Australia.  Trouble with table wines is we are seeing only entry level in these format bottles.

I also think having a selection of 375ml bottles is good as for often a group of 3-4 people this represents around 100ml each wich is good when looking for some variety

Reply by GregT, Aug 16, 2010.

D - take a look at this.  I posted a comment on the site but he never got back to me.

Reply by GregT, Aug 16, 2010.

GDD - funny.  I remember seeing palates of it stacked at a winery in Argentina.  It was sitting in the sun.  Who knows how long that batch sat there.  Maybe the same thing happens elsewhere.  But it's made for general consumption so if you're not the customer base, you're not going to be too happy with it.

Reply by AdamJefferson, Aug 16, 2010.

Somebody started a good thread a few months ago about wine on tap that might address some of the storage/preservation issues. 

I'd begin the process recognizing you're going to waste some wine at the outset but try out lots of different things, then settle on a dozen that your regulars want (ask them, not us).  Then, mix things up with some specials; what your distributors have on the medium to medium high end that they can't move, and you can negotiate down, is is a pretty good place to start loking for prospects to your list.  

Girldrinkdrunk, I'm generally underimpressed by Layer Cake, period.  Haven't tried one yet that can't be beaten in quality for lower price with something else on the same shelf.  Thought it might just be me.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 16, 2010.

Greg, I went to that review and was extremely underimpressed by it and the reviewer. He didn't even know what an 'auslese' was, though he's writing about wine, winebars, and supposedly has 'some' German (wonder if that means one year in high school)?

Wasn't able to find a way to view the comments, but imagine the discussion might have been lively....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 17, 2010.

Okay, so it turned into a LayerCake side thread after I dissed it as a choice.  GDD--right out there with her opinions and willing to take the heat for it.  That's why we look for your posts!

GregT has a really good point about things that are ubiquitous in retail shops:  If you can get it a lot cheaper and take it home, you might be annoyed to pay almost as much for a glass out as you did for a bottle. 

I have NO complaint about negociant wines, although the LayerCake model isn't my first choice.  One great experience I had was drinking 2008 Joel Gott Sauv Blanc at SeaSalt in Berkeley and figuring it would cost me $20-ish a bottle based on the experience.  Lo and behold, when I ran it down--it's not widely available and sells out where it's carried--I learned it can be had for half of that.  It's Cali appellated because the grapes are from three AVAs and Gott is a master at blending them.  (That said, the '09 is not quite as good.) Point is, FaronS should consider it, along with Dancing Coyote wines from Clarksburg, which are verdejo and albarinos, so they will be good with the Spanish style stuff.  Also at the lower priced end but you won't be competing with Safeway or Publix or wherever people in Fla buy their  inexpensive wine. I've also raved about Vega Riaza wines that I paid nothing for that were great Spanish wines.  I suspect they were cheap because they had poor distribution and the importer needed to get out from under the stock--so they might be hard to find.  But this is a great time to scavenge the wine market--lots of oversupply.  Just can't be sure you will keep getting it.

AdamJefferson's advice seems really good --try things, reorder stuff you know your regulars will buy, and bring in a rotating selection. And think seasonal.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Aug 18, 2010.

What I want to see in a wine bar is fair prices for wine by the glass and bottle.  I don't understand GregT's comment that a wine bar cannot sell wine for the same price as a retailer.  Why not?  I'm sure there are different costs that both business owners must take into account.  But why is it that a glass of wine at the wine bar/restaurant costs as much as a bottle at a retailer?

Here is a recent example that I ran into - the Eola Hills Pinot Noir can be purchased at Costco for just under 10 dollars a bottle.  At one of my local bars (owned by a friend even) a glass was 9 dollars!  I didn't complain or put down the bartender, but did make a mental note to check back on what I paid for the bottle I had enjoyed a week prior.

This is all too familiar an experience with looking at the wine list at bars and restaurants.  It seems like it is better to not know much about wine so you don't know how much the price is getting marked up.

So, on to what I would expect from a wine bar...

  • If I am going to pay a premium for wine at a wine bar then here is what I expect:
  • Knowledgable and friendly staff that also includes prompt and curteous service.
  • Clean and professional.  No boxes and junk laying around.  Ever.  If you are limited on space then make sure you are unpacking and stocking during off hours.
  • A unique offering (changing on a regular basis) by the glass or bottle at a price that entices me to experiment.  The staff should know the details about the wine to encourage stepping out of your comfort zone.
  • Wines that I cannot find anywhere else.
  • Specific food and wine pairings to help highlight food and the wines that compliment them.

Botttom line, I want a fun and comfortable experience where I get to learn more about wine by tasting a new varietal or blend, or something familiar but from a different region etc.  I should also be able to get some good advice and information from the staff without being made to feel like an idiot.   I don't need a Mr. Pink wannabe coming by every 30 minutes or so to throw off some unintelligible one liner that might be related to the wine I'm drinking or robbing a bank...

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 18, 2010.


Unfortunately the costs of running a wine bar are significantly higher than a retailer, start with buying power, some of the big retail chains buy wine so cheap they sell it retail for less than some wine bars can buy it from a distributor. There is reasons for this and I can set them out if you are interested.

Wine Bar staff costs per $ sales is much higher as you have a different service model.  Floor space expressed in square meters per $ revenue is significantly higher for bars - the list goes on.

Sadly some wine bars do try and sting people on margin, but my attitude is that if they are consistently to expensive for the clientelle they are targetting they will fail

Reply by dmcker, Aug 18, 2010.

Vello, I think you did very well illustrate GregT's warning about the pitfalls of a wine bar including bottles commonly available in the retail market at discounted prices, to which customers can knowingly and quickly make cost comparisons....

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 18, 2010.

I agree, but we need to cut some slack to wine bar operators as they do operate on a completely different cost model to retailers and if they can't make a living they will go out of business.


Reply by dmcker, Aug 18, 2010.

That's why I pointed up the thread to those online marketers that I did. Very well priced bottles that no one else will have. Those online merchants can serve as a good model (and perhaps even supplier for part of the line) for an intelligent wine bar....

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 18, 2010.

Agree and more wineries should use it as a channell to appeal to wine bars to stock their product

Reply by Vinogger, Aug 18, 2010.

I think you need to go for good value and unique varietals to get people to try things they may not have had before.

Reply by Avv, Aug 18, 2010.

I dont think in a warm place like florida you could go past Jerez Fino

Reply by Eric G, Aug 18, 2010.

As a former wine bar owner I would recommend vintage wines!  It was a great treat popping open 30 to 40 year old Rieslings, and pouring by the glass.  Take advantage of your preservation system!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 18, 2010.

Anyone who can get Eola Hills Pinot for $10 a bottle should pick me up a case.  That's a crazy good price.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 18, 2010.

That's also why having stuff you can't find at Costco is a good idea--when you do find it for about what you happily paid for a glass, you aren't upset, you are thrilled. You just didn't know up front. 

If you don't like paying more for wine in a wine bar or restaurant, you either need to better understand the economics of the restaurant business--most of the cost is labor and real estate--or drink all your wine at home.  Some restaurants go too far, but most menus have a few not-outrageous markups and, if the prices are high, you can always pay corkage and bring your own.

Reply by zufrieden, Aug 18, 2010.

The most sound advice, I think, is to ensure that you have plenty of popular (but affordable) offerings that also reflect the locale.  Beyond this requirement, you need to decide upon your primary clientele; if you seek the well-heeled, then think of providing some interesting, by the wayside and somewhat more rare tipples. I like variety myself, and want to try the best of the locale - should that region be producing wines of at least some pedigree.

There is nothing more disappointing than being in a fine setting without the requisite wine.

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