Posts Tagged ‘Wine bar’

Is this food/wine any good?

Monday, December 7th, 2009

When you go to a bar/restaurant, do you ask the waiter if a dish/drink/wine is any good?

I mean seriously, what server/waiter/waitress worth half their weight in plonk (low grade wine) would actually answer NO, that dish/wine is bad.  I mean seriously…

But WTG, what if I am curious about a dish and want to know if it is any good?  Shouldn’t the server tell me the truth???

NOOOO!!!!  Sure the server is working for a tip & presumably that server will not want to steer you wrong.  BUT once you leave the restaurant that server has a boss to answer to & if that boss hears the server saying anything negative about the food at the establishment said server will likely be unemployed.

The best solution would be to ask for a taste of the dish/wine in question.  In the case of foods this may be difficult, but with most wines that are served by the glass at restaurants or wine bars you should be able to get a taste.

At restaurants I like to employ 2 strategies.  The first, if I have a specific dish in mind, is to ask the server if they have had the dish.  (Many servers only eat from community dishes prepared in advance of their shift for the whole staff.)  If they have, ask if they enjoyed it and would order it again.  This way the server can tell you that they might not have enjoyed it or they might not order it again, without saying that it is not good (or heaven forbid BAD).

The next strategy I like to take, and the one I favor most hoping to get the restaurant’s BEST dish is to ask the server what their favorite is, or what they would order if they were eating dinner and I was paying.  This really gets them to open up & generally lets you know if you take their recommendation that you are likely to end up with a good dish.

Happy tasty food & wine tasting!


Visit to “Terroir”

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Those of you who are regular readers are probably familiar with the term Terroir.  As such, you may be confused by my claimed ability to go visit what is loosely described as “a sense of place”.  Fear not, I haven’t COMPLETELY lost it – only partially…          


Having cleared that up, what I did visit last night was the WINE BAR “Terroir”.  Terroir is located on East 12th Street in what is considered to be the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park.  It is a pretty cool area, but the bar is in the middle of a block, a bit hard to find, and really in the middle of nowhere.  Yet, on a holiday weekend, Sunday night, IT WAS PACKED!  WHY????

The place is at first glance nothing special.  Some bizarre t-shirts adorning one wall combined with its somewhat psychedelic menu make this place original, but why is it packed??  The place probably only seats about 25 people between the bar and the 1 communal table so I suppose filling such a small place is easier than a space that seats 125.  The prices seemed a bit high and there is a clear biased to Rieslings – not that there is anything wrong with that.  At first, the crowd made very little sense to me…

But then I got down to business with my fellow wine club members and started tasting.  WOW!  To begin with, our server (Emily) was great.  She was warm, sweet, patient and quite knowledgeable (or so she seemed).  As a bunch of winos, rather than buying a bottle or even glasses we opted for tastes – 3 oz. pours that allowed us to sample a variety of wines.  I took my cue from Emily and a fellow wine club buddy when coming up with my choices.  And while all the recommendations weren’t perfect, having tiny samples before selecting ensured that I was happy with what I ended up with.

We finished the night with a pretty hefty bill, but I tasted 8 or 9 different wines, drinking 6 of them and really enjoyed myself.

The wines I tasted without tasting notes – sorry, wasn’t that kind of tasting…

Muscadet – Sevre & Maine, Cuvee Medaillee, Pierre Luneau, 1995, Loire Valley (100% Melon de borgogne).

Pinot Gris – Cuvee Cecile, Lucien Albreacht, 2004, Alcase.

Chablis – Bel Air Et Clardy, 2006, de Moor (100% Chardonnay)

Riesling – Spatlese, Rudesheimer Berg Rottland, Ehrhard, 1990, Rheingau.

All very nice wines, yet the Riesling was unbelievable, especially for a 1990 – or maybe because it was a 1990???

Moving on to reds, I was feeling pretty good at this point, and ended up trying about 4 reds.  I did not care for 2 of them that friends did in fact enjoy, but thoroughly enjoyed the other two.

Not my favorite was the dirty/barnyardy 2000 Moulin-Tacussel Southern Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape or the fruitless the 2005 Monthelie, Cuvee Paul, Paul Garaudet, Cote de Beaune.

Yet I did really enjoy two nice acidic and somewhat lighter reds.

The Saumur Champagny, Thierry Germain, 2005 Loire Valley 100% Cab Franc has nice subtle fruit, some herbaceous notes and a great acidity.

While the 100% St. Laurent (the name of the grape), Reserve, Forstreiter, 2005, Kremstat was a new varietal for me.  It was light yet it had some depth, minerality and a subtle fruitiness.

Overall a fun and educational wine tasting evening for the Wine Tasting Guy & friends…

Happy WACKY WINE BAR Wine Tasting!


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!


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!



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!


Highly regarded WINE BAR

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

As reported in my previous post, I did in fact make it out to a wine bar tonight. Said wine bar is technically located in the West Village, but it is just North of trendy Tribeca – and it definitely had a trendy aura to it.

The good: the staff was really great. I was a pain in the ass as I often tend to be (unintentionally) at wine bars, yet the staff was warm, patient and very cool. The two people behind the bar that helped out were also quite knowledgeable, and definitely NOT pretentious. Oh yeah, and the place had great stemware!

wine server

The bad: well, there was no “bad” per say. But if I had to complain about anything (more…)

Secrets of a successful wine bar

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Those of you who know me or who have been reading the blog for any period of time know of my infatuation with wine bars.  Since returning to NYC from Napa, at the advice of several amazing wine industry mentors, I have been frequenting NYC’s wine bars.  All part of my journey, a journey I hope never ends, to train my wine palate.

Wine evaluation

A quick post tonight in anticipation of a visit to yet another wine bar tomorrow night. The wine bar I will be going to tomorrow night is very well regarded.  It has received positive press, and has had positive things written by patrons online.  I look forward to checking this relatively new place out, hopefully enjoying a glass or two of wine, and passing my own judgment.

As to the title of this post, “secrets of a successful wine bar” – I was speaking with a restaurant consultant today.  The topic of wine bars came up and he let me know that he believes there are 3 essential factors (more…)

Wine bar rants

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Went out to a bunch of places with different friends last night. Fun but exhausting.

I want to talk about the wine bar/restaurant I went to. The place is in my neighborhood and while I have walked passed it many times this was my first time in. A very nice spot. This clearly was not a traditional wine bar, but the front part of the space was in fact much like a wine bar, while the back was a more traditional dining area. The front section had a long bar, a long COMMUNAL TABLE and some smaller spots scattered around.

communal table

One weird thing that seems to drive the help nuts and was a bit of a bummer for me was the wine list and its two columns. The first being the glass price and the second being the bottle price…right? WRONG! (more…)

What constitutes a wine bar?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

By now many of you are aware that part of my Israel Wine project involves wine bars.  As such I went out with some business associates tonight and we both perused several wine bars then ultimately stopped for some drinks and a bite at a new place that calls itself a restaurant & wine bar.

Is a wine bar a place with a large selection of wines?  Is it a place with several offerings by the glass?  Is it a place where snobbery rules?  Does there need to be a sommelier?   How about fancy stemware?  Or even a massive wine display?

wine tower


Wine service – BY THE GLASS

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008


I have recently written about wine service in restaurants. While it is a bit of a hot topic right now (depending on who you ask) I want to take the conversation in a slightly different direction; “by the glass service”.

To bring this all together, my issue with wine service in restaurants had to do with how servers were pouring wine, or more specifically, high much they were pouring in the glass. Frankly I felt that almost EVERY TIME I allowed a server at a wine bar to pour, they would invariably pour to a level that did not allow me to swirl the wine – thereby detracting from my full appreciation of said wine.

Today I bring up by the glass service as this is something offered at my restaurants and wine bars for those who want to try a wine, but may not be prepared to buy a full bottle. It is especially helpful if two (or more) diners want different wines. (more…)