The birds are chirping, the masks are off and the wine sales reps are rolling their insulated bags loaded with samples across the U.S. In the wine biz, “back to normal” means Spring wine list revamp!
To restaurants great and small, the Spring wine list re-vamp is a time-honored practice. For corporate properties, it means plugging in products chosen by regional or national buyers, with recognizable labels that are easy to source from national distributors and easy to sell. It’s not taken lightly. Beverage sales mean solid revenue to fulfill the important goal of providing all shareholders with a consistent income to support their families.
This goes for The Chopping Block, too! But like other businesses that focus on cuisine, TCB’s added goal is to offer guests beautifully made and delicious wines that bring extra levels of enjoyment to each dish. And at TCB, we even teach you about them so you can create exciting wine and food pairings yourself. (“Those that can, do. Those that believe others can do too, teach.”)
The first step is an inventory survey to determine what’s working and what’s not. For this, TCB General Manager Kate Augustin and I Zoom up to determine our keeps (Adami Prosecco Superiore DOCG) and cuts (¡Hasta la próxima! Manzanilla Sherry).
Next, we’re joined by Curriculum Coordinator Chef Sara Salzinski to pair classes with wine needs. For my new Spanish Wine & Tapas class coming up in July, we’re set with an Albarino to pair with Gambas con Ajillo, a Rioja Reserva for Sauteed Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese, but we still need a Cava.
For our new West Coast Wines class, we need a Willamette Valley Chardonnay; and for our new Brilliant Blends class, a new Champagne would be nice. Keep an eye on our class calendar and subscribe to our newsletter to be informed of all of these new classes coming this summer!
Next, to taste. People ask me all the time, “What’s it like being a sommelier, do you sit around all day tasting delicious wine?” Pretty much. Throughout a full day of five rep appointments and 60 wines, Kate and I swirl, slurp and spit, analyzing production technique, food compatibility and just plain deliciousness, aided by industry data and winery technical sheets. Our distributor reps are crucial to the process. Rather than national distributors, TCB works with locally-owned distributors whose team is ready, willing, and able to discuss the handcraft wines and family-owned wineries they represent, with insights we can pass along to guests. They also offer news from the wine world beyond:
- Will Willamette really lose 50% of their 2022 crop due to frost?
- Are wines with the new “clean” and “natural” monikers really clean and natural?
Neck-and-neck in the race against intoxication, Kate and I call it a day with a recap. Some choices are clear: customer favorite Mas de Gourgonnier is back, a chewy, spicy red just in time for June grilling classes on the patio and for Brilliant Blends.
Other choices need more reconnaissance: For instance, do we add a Nebbiolo and Barolo combination? Has the Loire Valley recovered from its slump, to offer consistent supply of our preferred Sancerre?
Now comes the hard part. Many reps rely on commission-based income, with a set budget for parking and sometimes, for samples. But since time is the most unforgiving budget, most reps prefer a quick “no thank you” over “maybe” that requires repeated follow-up. Kate and I balance new placements amongst loyal reps when possible, especially if their previous wines have gotten the heave-ho.
In July, watch for our new wine classes and our new wine list with descriptions to help guests select the perfect wine for their cooking classes. In the meantime, visit our current list for all of your spring wine needs.
And don't miss out on the first new class Spanish Wine and Tapas Pairing on Wednesday, July 20 at 6pm at Lincoln Square. Check out these amazing wine and tapas combos:
- Cava Brut Rosado, Caves Naveran 2021, Catalunya, Spain
- Gambas con Ajillo (Sautéed Shrimp with Garlic and Saffron) Paired with Albarino, Bodegas Lagar de Besada 2019, Galicia, Spain
- Bacon-Wrapped Chorizo-Stuffed Dates Paired with Mencia Rosado, Liquid Geography 2019, Bierzo, Spain
- Sautéed Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Sauce Paired with Rioja Reserva, La Antigua Clasico, 2012, Rioja Spain
- Flan Paired with "Isabel" Cream Sherry, Valdespino N.V. Jerez Spain