Archive for August, 2008

Happy Labor Day

Friday, August 29th, 2008

WOW.  The past few weeks have been very hectic.  Selling wine, running around the greater NY area.  Working on my Israel wine project.  Exhausting.  I wish someone would “invent” a holiday to acknowledge all my hard LABOR.


I’m off for the weekend.  Happy Labor day weekend to all and I’ll be back either Monday night or Tuesday…


How a wine bar should construct their wine list

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I’ve been working with two NYC wine bars of late.  In the past I have done some consulting, but this time I am doing it from the sales side.  I’m working with an amazing Israeli wine producer and these two wine bars are interested in carrying at least some of our products.  But they are deciding which wines to carry in very different ways.

So how do the ever important wine buying decisions get made???

coin flip

OK, so it is not that simple or arbitrary.  And like everything else about wine, there really isn’t any “right or wrong”.  But what I want to discuss tonight is the two different approaches of the two wine bars I’ve been selling to this week.

The first and more conventional method is to taste the wines, decide which ones you find of interest or intrigue, and purchase those for your wine list.  This is basically how one wine buyer is doing things.  This buyer had me come meet him at his wine bar with some wines (we spoke about his preferences before the meeting) and we tasted through them together with the bartender working that night.  At this initial meeting I only had 3 wines, and of the three he liked one.  Which is great.  I have others I hope to show him, and I really hope that the wines do well at his wine bar.  He seemed to be a good guy, I liked how he involved the bartender, and for it to be successful for me it has to be successful for him.

The best part of this tasting in my opinion was the involvement of the bartender.  It is the bartender that becomes the salesperson of the wine.   And if the bartender likes the wine they will be more likely to recommend it.

The method employed by the other wine bar was in many ways similar, but in actuality quite different.  The second wine bar is the one I wrote about last week where I held a wine tasting.  They had me come down with several bottles and pour the wines for their customers.  Sure they tried the wines and of course they were only interested in wines that THEY liked themselves.  But the owner was aggressively seeking input from the customers regarding the wines they tried that night.  Which led to a theory the owner has – one I am not sure I buy into 100% but that seems to have some merit.  He told me that he has learned about the palates of his customers.  While watching him interact I can certainly believe this, yet what is most amazing is that he believes that people in his neighborhood (most wine bars are neighborhood establishments) have a common palate that is different from people in other NYC neighborhoods.

Now I suppose that if you were to travel around the different areas of Manhattan you would notice different personality types, different dress, and maybe even different food preferences.  But different wine palates???  Hey, this guy is a mathematician and former professor, who am I to argue with him?

So I guess it comes down to whose wine preference is more important, the one serving (and recommending) the wine or the one drinking (and paying for) the wine.  One might initially think it is obviously the consumer preference that is most important.  But the truth is, with the power of suggestion being as strong as it is with wine, I ‘m not so certain…

Happy favorite wine bar wine tasting!


Less beer & more wine!

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Following up with the theme of increased wine consumption, here is a piece indicating that Americans are drinking more beer and less wine. 

Americans are drinking less alcohol, particularly beer, according to a study published in the August edition of The American Journal of Medicine.

beer or wine

Interestingly enough, I had been under the impression that alcohol consumption does not decrease during troubling economic times.   People drink the same amount.  They just purchase it differently.  Instead of drinking at bars and restaurants, they but their wine (or whatever) at shops and take it home.

But most importantly, “ Americans are drinking significantly less beer and more wine, while hard liquor use has remained fairly constant.

Happy WINE tasting!

Camping, Le Rendezvous Wine bar & wine consumption

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

My sincerest apologies for the lag in posts the past few days.  Things have been hectic yet fabulous.  I returned today from a wonderful yet too short weekend camping trip.  There were 8 of us on the trip and it was loads of fun.  BBQ-ing, fireworks, fishing, tubing & BIG CAMP FIRES.  Ahhh…so much fun.  I brought a bunch of wine and someone questioned whether wine was camping appropriate.  I thought it was perfect actually.  While chillin’ in a chair & fishing on the Delaware river I preferred a cold beer.  But a bottle of rose in the early evening and a cup (no glasses at the campgrounds – oh well) of red at night with a burger by the campfire – SOOOO GOOOOOD!


Quickly want to thank everyone who made it out to Le Rendezvous wine bar last Thursday night.   The turnout was great and all who made it were treated to a spectacular night (if I do say so myself).  I was able to seat almost all the guests and like a good party host I mingled with everyone while constantly filling up their glasses with fabulous wines from Yarden & Galil Mountain.  I got lots of people nice and buzzed, but more importantly the guests and wine bar staff (and owner) loved the wines and really enjoyed the evening and ambiance at the fabulous Le Rendezvous wine bar.

Finally want to share an interesting little tidbit with you.  The Beverage Information group recently released their 2008 wine handbook and announced that wine consumption in 2008 once again rose – by 3.2%.  Doesn’t sound like a lot but it marks the 14th consecutive year of “case gains”.  The full PR Newswire release can be found here.

Happy Campfire Israel Wine Tasting!


Is Rosé already Passé

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rosé of late.  There is a great rosé made by Israeli producer Galil Mountain that I recently poured at a tasting, and while I think the wine is amazing, there were guests there who saw the color and assumed it would be a sweet wine.  For those seeking a sweet wine I suggested a bone dry but beautifully floral Viognier (also a Galil Mountain wine) – that was incredibly received.  But it did get me thinking.  Is there room for rosé to grow in popularity.  I must admit, I too associated rosé with flabby white zinfandel until discovering the special characteristics that a good rosé offers.  But why, even following a feature article last summer in Wine Spectator, was rosé still not being fully embraced?  Is Rose’ already Passé???


A quick tutorial on rosé.  The color in wine is extracted from the grape skins.  The longer the contact with the grape skins, the more color (and other things) are extracted from the skins (basically) and end up in the wine.  So with rosé, the grape skins are given SOME, but not a lot of contact with the juice, thereby allowing a little color, but not a deep, rich red or ruby color that juice that was otherwise left on the skin for an extended period would extract.

OK, back to the question at hand.  When crisp, dry & refreshing rose’ can be so good, why haven’t people fully embraced this style of wine?

I’ve got lots of theories;

1 – Men (OK, some) have issues drinking white wine.  How do you think those men, or those who are teetering feel about a pink drink?

2 – It isn’t red & it isn’t white.  So what is it?

3 – The aforementioned stigma that was attached to rosé (or blush) as a result of the aforementioned white Zin phenomenon.

And countless others, but one that has stood out to me relates to an issue I have complained about in the past.  I take issue with places that serve “a white wine” and “a red wine”.  Or people who order “a glass of white” or “a glass of red”.  I know, I know, it seems like I am perpetuating that same issue of pretension that I supposedly despise.  But this is not pretension.  This is about the exact opposite.  I always tell people to drink what they like.  But if they are simply ordering whatever generic juice someone else is going to pour them they are never going to discover WHAT IT IS THEY LIKE.  Reds, whites AND rosé from different regions made of different varietals taste DIFFERENT.  That is not to say one is good and another isn’t.  Deciding what is good and what is not is UP TO YOU!  But to decide that you don’t like rosé because you had a bad one is silly.

I know it would be weird to order a Pinot Noir rosé, or a sangiovese rosé, etc.  But maybe that is a solution.  And it is actually only one part of it as some Pinot rosé can be excellent while other can SUCK (although once again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

Can’t say that I have any definitive solution or that this issue and its corresponding “resolution” will “change the wine world”.  But it is something I have been thinking about recently and I thought I would share some of those thoughts with you.

Happy Rosé Wine Tasting!


Quick reminder, tomorrow, Thursday night is the big (FREE) Israel wine tasting at Le Rendezvous wine bar on the Upper east side (of Manhattan).  I’d love to see YOU there.

 For details click here.

A beautiful woman and a fabulous wine bar

Monday, August 18th, 2008

NOOOO…I did not pass away and go to heaven (although I bet that is what MY heaven looks like).  But I must admit that this afternoon and evening were quite wonderful.

Late this afternoon I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman with whom I have been in touch for a long time.  This guy is working to promote THE CAUSE – Israel wine.  And he seems to be doing a great job of it.  His approach is unique, but his passion is unmistakable.  He invited me to meet him at an in-house wine tasting event.  At this event he poured several wines, spoke to the people about the wines and the winemakers, and then took orders for said wine.  All the wines were Israeli wines made at what are considered to be boutique operations.  And while some of the wines showed better than others, all were generally warmly received.  Way to go Richard!

From this fabulous event I went to meet a lovely young lady at a wine bar I have been meaning to check out.  The young lady looked terrific (no, not because I drank a lot at the wine tasting event) and the wine bar was doing “IT” right.

What is “IT” you ask?  Ahhh…good question.  IT is the prefect level of service where the customer feels attended to, appreciated, yet not crowded, rushed or made to feel anything less than like a king.   Just really great service.

wine bartender

Upon initially speaking with the server, she modestly deferred to the asst. sommelier for wine related issues – something I greatly appreciate rather than being fed B.S. about wines they might know nothing about.  The sommelier was cordial, polite and gracious and brought us 4 samples to try so that when we made out ultimate selection we would be sure to be pleased.  And the clincher was the follow up service.  They were attentive, but from afar.  I was thrilled to be pouring my own wine from the carafe in which it was served.  And throughout my time I noticed the server looking over, almost waiting to be summoned, but not crowding us in any way.  She was really amazing.  How she came up with what (in one persons humble opinion) was the perfect combination of space & attentiveness I will never know.  But she got IT!

Happy fabulous (Israeli) wine tasting!


Buying wine at a wine shop

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

As part of my work for the Israeli wine distributor I am presently working for, I went into a wine shop on Friday afternoon to “hand sell” some of their wines.  The wine shop manager set me up next to the shelf displaying the producer’s wines.  I opened up 3 bottles to pour for customers as they came in, and said customers were offered discounts if they purchased any of the wines (in 3, 6 or 12 bottle increments) I was pouring – as well as others made by the producer.

I must say, things went brilliantly.  OK, it could have been better.  There was not as much traffic as I may have liked.  A few people did come in just to try some free wine.  Yes, there were one or two people who I suppose felt a “hard sell”, and ending up opting for other wines.  BUT for the most part people tried the wines, engaged in conversation about the wines, asked lots of good questions and then bought at least one if not 3 bottles of wine (to take advantage of the discount).

I have heard this from others but I am now fully convinced that this method of “hand selling” is truly the best way to sell wines.  It may seem obvious, but you have people entering a wine shop/liquor store with the intent to purchase a bottle (or more) of wine.  Yet they are suddenly faced with the daunting array of wines set before them.

wine shop

And standing right there to help is Mr./Ms. NON-PRETENTIOUS wine expert happy to provide a quick taste of wine for said customer and answer any questions they may have.  Two very important elements.  I always recommend that people taste a wine before buying a bottle of it (when possible of course).  And having someone there who may know a bit more about wine than the ordinary average Jane is also helpful and generally appreciated.

It was a great few hours and I really hope everyone who purchased some of the wines I recommended were happy with their selections.

Now if only I can figure out a way to be in 200 stores selling wine at the same time…

ASIDE: All NYC (and vicinity) residents are invited to an Israeli wine tasting this Thursday night.  I’ll be at the Le Rendezvous wine bar at 80th St. & 2nd Ave pouring FREE wine from 7-9PM.  There will be bubbly (show up early for this) as well as some whites, a rose’ and of course some fabulous reds.  Come say hi and introduce yourself!

Happy wine tasting & buying!


A taste of Israel

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Happy B-day to WTG. Happy B-day to WTG, Happy B-day to WTG, Happy B-day to YOU!

OK, that is out of the way. I tend to I shy away from b-day attention, but hey, a Wine Tasting Guy only turns 21 (yeah, right) once right?!?!?

Anyway, I attended a wine tasting tonight, and it was my favorite kind. It was an ISRAELI WINE tasting at the as of yet not opened 92Y Tribeca.  I poured wine at the event and it was FABULOUS! People at the event were “WINE CURIOUS”. I did get some requests for “white wine” or “red wine” or “the best wine”, but for the most part, people were engaging me in conversation about the wine. Where did it come from (Israel), what region (most from Galille, but some from Golan), what grapes were used (Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Viognier, etc.)… YES, there were some people who just wanted to drink, but that is OK. I busted balls – made all the people who asked for white pronounce “VIO-GN-IER” before I poured them anything (actually pronounced VEE-OAN-YAY).  Speaking of Viognier, the Galil Mt. 2007 Viognier was the hit of the event.  I was told by more than a few people that it was the best wine of the night.  I went through 3 bottles of the Viognier before finishing 1 bottle of anything else I had.

wine cheers at table

But seriously, it was a very productive tasting. Many of the people were sincerely curious as to the varietal, origin, winery, etc. They also wanted to know where they could find the wine. Some were truly upset that they could NOT buy some of the wine poured at the event on the spot. I had to explain to them that it was illegal to sell to them and they would have to buy it at their favorite wine shop. But overall, people were happy to engage the WTG in conversation about GOOD, ISRAELI wine. And I was thrilled to be able to oblige.

Happy Israeli Wine Tasting!



Monday, August 11th, 2008

I went out to a wine bar tonight.  The food portion of the menu consisted of a “cheese plate”.  That is it.  The selection of wines was not impressive.  For a place with a French name, I expected an extensive collection of French wines.  Nope.  Heavily Mediterranean though.  Lots of extracted Argentinian, Chilean & Spanish wines.  They even had two PORTS on the menu.  But no Australian.  Minimal French.  So Wine Tasting Guy…what was so “great” about this place?

Le Rendezvous

THE SERVICE!  The place was definitely intimate.  A nice decor.  Some comfortable seating.  Good stemware.  They served their wines in separate apparatus (not sure whether to call it a decanter or carafe).  A cool bar.  But what really sold me was the VERY WARM, SWEET bartender.  She was incredibly accommodating.   I know I can be a pain in the ass at wine bars and the bartender was so patient with me as I tasted wine after wine until I FINALLY found one I liked.  (I must have tasted 5-6 wines before finding one I liked.)  And she was super gracious about it too.

And then I met the owner.  WOW.  What a guy.  A former professor, this guy was REALLY WARM.  Apparently he loved teaching and I bet his students loved him.  Such a genuinely warm and nice guy.  We talked about getting together to talk about his place.  On this night the place was quiet and while I understand that it is profitable, I’d be thrilled to be able to help him transform it into a thriving business.

But the point of this post is that while there were clearly many things that needed to be worked on, this place got one very important thing right.  The service.  It was really great.  Sure it would be nice if he had more food options.  But how many people are going there for dinner.  And yes, it would have been nice if I had more luck with the wines.  But I did find something I liked in the end.  GOOD SERVICE.  They were just real people who REALLY  seemed to want to see the customers have a quality experience.

I wish them all the luck in the world!

Happy PLEASANT wine tasting!


Subtle differences in wine

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

I have been nice and busy the past few weeks. And while I love being busy, it means sacrificing sleep (sleep is for the weak) and falling behind on my wine reading. I spent a good chunk of my Sunday today playing catch up – and yes, I am still WAY behind. Nonetheless, there is so much interesting stuff going on in the wine world. Gary Vaynerchuk vlogging about Israeli wines that are not kosher certified. Laurie Daniel writing about all the wine books that have been released of late (at least 3 by NY based wine industry professionals – one of whom I have had coffee with). Paul Gregutt for the Seattle Times writing about white wines of Oregon (all under $20). A San Fransisco Chronicle article about Italian varietals in California (I have had some amazing Napa Sangiovese). An Eric Asimov NYT piece about Greek wines.  All great reads, but I must admit that my eyes began to feel like they were busting out of my head…

computer eyezz

But finally, the post that really got me thinking was Wine enthusiasts’ “unreserved” blog post by Steve Heimoff “Stocalism, or why everything tastes like everything else“. (more…)