Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BYO Wine Etiquette

This is a good time to discuss proper etiquette when bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant. Because tonight I am going to one of my favorites - Paul Manno's in Chesterfield.
Obviously, restaurants make a good profit on their wine and other alcohol offerings, yet, most St. Louis restaurants are gracious enough to let their customers bring in their own wine in exchange for a "corkage" fee, typically between $10 and $25 per bottle, with $15 being about the average. This is what Manno's charges. I have no problem with corkage fees. After all, the waiter opens the bottle, pours the wine and provides the restaurant's glassware.
There are a few more things to remember though:
Call ahead and make sure the restaurant supports BYO. This will avoid an embarrassing situation for you and the restaurant.
If possible, check the restaurant's wine list to determine if the wine you're planning to bring is also on their list of wines. Manno's does not have a website, so that makes this piece of advice problematic for me. I do know they have an extensive Italian list, so I try to stick with domestic or French. You really don't want to be bringing in a bottle of wine that you can purchase at the restaurant. It's poor "BYO etiquette".
Next, try to buy a beverage from the restaurant. This could be a cocktail or glass of wine before dinner, or an after dinner liqueur with dessert and coffee.
Finally, always offer a taste of the wine you bring to your waiter and the restaurant manager or owner. They will usually decline, but not always - especially if it's later in the evening.
Remember these few tips, and you're sure to be welcomed with open arms from your favorite restaurant when you BYOW.
I don't know what wine I'm bringing tonight, but, I usually bring a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet based wine so I can have some flexibility in the food that I order. It also provides backup wine if one of the wines is "off" in some way.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend - What To Drink?

Zinfandel, Rose' and beer.  That's what I'm drinking this Memorial weekend. And I can't wait to get started!
Zinfandel will perfectly compliment the inevitable barbecue. The Rose' and beer are the refreshing libations I will be quaffing as temperatures nudge toward 100 degrees here in St. Louis. Of course you can also drink these with your barbecue as well as the Zin. It's up to you.
Here are some of my favorites - all at The Market:
2009 Quivira
2009 JC Cellars Landy Vineyard
Rose' (I prefer domestic Rose' to the French)
2010 Shane
2011 Maison Bleue
Beer (Even though I love them, there will be no high alcohol IPA's this weekend - only the crisp refreshing stuff):
Weihenstephaner Original (A refreshing German lager from the world's oldest brewery)
Scrimshaw Pilsner (From North Coast Brewing in CA, Scrimshaw was named the #1 brew for barbecues by ABC News. I love the stuff!)

Take a moment to remember and thank a veteran this Memorial Day


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wine In Restaurants - For Chumps?

I wrote a blog a while back about wine by the glass in restaurants. Today, I see that Wine Spectator editor Matt Kramer, also has an opinion on the topic. To quote Kramer: "Let me blunt: If you go to a restaurant and buy wine by the glass, you're a chump". Wow. That's pretty harsh. He goes on to state that in most restaurants, the first pour pays for the bottle. That's what I said, too. But then he spends the rest of the article discussing how you should buy wine by the bottle. But heck, that's not so cheap either. Most restaurants "at least" double the retail price. And in Missouri, the restaurant's cost is exactly the same as a retailer. Clearly, there is big profit in restaurant wine. So, what's a restaurant goer/wine lover to do?
Bring your own wine and pay what hopefully is a reasonable corkage fee. In Missouri, corkage fees range from "no corkage" up to $30+ per bottle. Some restaurants also have limits on how many bottles they will allow. I would consider $10 a "great" corkage (not as great as free), and $15 to be reasonable, and probably most common around these parts.  This is not a universal practice, however. In neighboring Kansas, you cannot bring your own wine into any restaurant - ever.
Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and buy that wine by the glass. What if you're dining alone, or with someone who doesn't drink wine? I know I'm not drinking a full bottle by myself - as much as I might like to. Wine by the glass is here to stay, and the price structure won't be changing any time soon. After all, our restaurant friends, need to make a profit too. Talk about a tough business!  I thought retailing was hard.
In a future blog I'll discuss some tips on etiquette when you do BYO.

Tom - A Chump!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Is A "Grower" Champagne?

We love Champagne here at The Market. So much so, that we make a point of dedicating a week to those wonderful bubbles during the middle of the year. This is that week - May 15 through May 19.
We have a fantastic Champagne selection that is dominated by "grower Champagnes". Grower Champagne houses make Champagne from grapes grown on their own estates. So why is that a big deal?
Because, all of the "big houses"such as Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Bollinger, Krug etc. buy their grapes from all over the entire Champagne region to make their wines. They then add the "dosage", which is a blend of reserve wine and sugar to get their "house" profile that tends to be consistent year after year. Consistency is good, but it can also be boring.
Grower Champagnes display the passion of the winemaker and the character of the particular region, soil, climate, elevation etc. This is known as the terroir. This makes for much richer and fascinating wines. Of course the growers stay in business because they sell their grapes to the big houses. But it's the stuff they make themselves that is the most exciting.
Here are some personal favorites - all at The Market:
2004 Chartogne-Taillet Brut
2005 Aubry Ivore Ebene Brut
NV Rene Geoffroy Brut
NV Gaston Chiquet Brut
NV Pierre Peters Brut
Cheers to Champagne week at The Saint Louis Wine Market!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wines For My Favorite Moms!

The two most important moms in my life right now are my wife, Judy and my daughter, Becky. Judy raised two amazing kids, Becky and Michael, often by herself, while I was away traveling on business. Now, Becky, having learned well from her mom, is following in her footsteps.
So, here's a toast to my two favorite moms with some of their favorite wines:
2010 Chappellet (Judy's favorite)
2011 Maison Bleue (brand new to The Market. Tasted last night. Delicious!)
Red blends
2008 Sheridan L'Orage (67% Cabernet/33% Cabernet Franc)
2007 Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval (45% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 15% Cabernet)
For Becky: NV Geoffroy Brut Rose'
For Judy: Flor Prosecco - with sugar cube and Chambord (she doesn't like Champagne so much)
1/2 Baileys, 1/2 Kahlua and a splash of vodka (to cut the sweetness) on the rocks.

Happy Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tom's Wine "Bucket List"

I've been very fortunate to have traveled to some great wine destinations and to have tasted some of the world's great wines.
But there is so much more I want to do.
I still need to travel and taste wine in Oregon, Washington State, Tuscany, Piedmont, Burgundy, Rhone and Champagne. Australia would be nice, but it's so darn far.
Here are some of the wines I still need to taste before I "kick the bucket":
France: The "La La's": Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, La Turque and La Mouline; Chateau Petrus,   Domaine de la Romanee Conti reds and whites, and Chateau d'Yquem.
Italy: Ornellaia Ornellaia, Ornellaia Masseto and Tua Rita Redigaffi
Spain: Pingus
Australia: Penfolds Grange
Domestic: Schrader and Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon
What's on your wine bucket list?


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wine - Healthy or Hazardous?

It seems like almost every day the "experts" are discovering something new about the health benefits or about the dangers of drinking wine.
In the same week from the same wine publication were two articles: one was about how drinking red wine benefits the heart and the other about how drinking wine causes cancer.  COME ON!
How about we just forget the deluge of conflicting information and use a little common sense:
If you drink too much wine in a short amount of time, you will get drunk. This is not healthy.
If you constantly drink too much wine, you will get fat. This is not healthy.
Constantly drinking too much wine can turn you into an alcoholic. This is not healthy.
If you drink while driving, it is not wise, and could end up not being healthy.
Savoring a great glass of wine with a loved one is one of life's great pleasures. How can this not be healthy?
Enjoying a great bottle of wine with a fantastic meal is is good for the body and soul. How can this not be healthy?
Drinking wine or Champagne to celebrate a special occasion like a wedding, birthday, anniversary or birth of a new baby is something we enjoy and remember. Good memories make you feel good. Feeling good is healthy.
I'll drink to that!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Help me! I need to buy a wine gift for someone....

Somebody comes into The Market almost every day looking for a gift of wine. And as Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Graduations approach, these encounters will likely increase.
The emotions the gift seekers emote range from mild confusion to sheer panic and paralysis. I really wish I had a Valium to offer some of them.
Here's a typical exchange:
Me: Hi. Can I help you today?
They: Oh, (stress levels rising) I need to buy a bottle of wine for a gift.
Me: Great. Do you know what they like?
They: No
Me: Red or white?
They: I don't know.
Me: How much did you want to spend?
They: I don't know.
You get the idea.
I totally understand, and empathize with these people. I get the same way when I'm shopping for women's pajamas as a gift for my wife or daughter.
If you find yourself in this condition when buying wine gifts, here are two simple suggestions: First, try to find out just a little about what your gift recipient likes if that's possible. Anything would be helpful - red, white, country, grape, etc. Second, try to have a budget in mind. Great wine can be purchased at any budget level.
So what do I do for the person in the above conversation? I suggest that the "safest" purchase if you know nothing about the recipient's preferences is a red domestic wine - a cabernet or cabernet blend, typically from Napa California. Every wine enthusiast knows about Napa Valley wine. I will start at around a $40 price point and adjust up or down based on the feedback from the customer. This approach hasn't failed me yet. The Valium would really help sometimes though!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dinner And Wine With Kids And Brooklyn The Dog

What a surprise! My son Michael and his wife Dani were off work Sunday evening, and they were nice enough to join us for dinner.
Of course they brought their now famous mini English bulldog, Brooklyn, with them. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Dinner was fairly simple: steamed mussels for an appetizer and roasted chicken, asparagus and oven roasted potatoes for the main course. Okay. On to the wines
From the Market:
2009 Sebastiani Chardonnay - with the mussels
2009 Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir - with the chicken
From my stash:
2005 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet - while playing pinochle - guys against the girls.
The Sebastiani is always solid and at $11 per bottle, it only gets better.
The Argyle was a perfect compliment to the chicken.
The Beringer was just gorgeous. I had not had this wine until now. Very rich and complex, with dark red fruit, currant, cassis and cocoa on the nose and palate. I was very impressed, as 2005 was not one of the higher rated vintages for Beringer.
The guys won handily at pinochle and Brooklyn only got into "minor" trouble.
It was a good evening!


What?? I didn't do anything!  I'm innocent, I tell ya!