Cheers September

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 31 of 51 32 Cheers • September 2014 and even the [Austrian] reds that are hitting the market much more in the past few years." It's a bit market dependent she says, noting that in Atlanta, gruners are "huge," with a growing demand in Max's Austin and Chicago units as well. Hon, who carries about two dozen Austrian wines—primarily whites—on the Sepia menu, notes that the wines that are gaining popularity are high quality but not inexpensive. And as more Austrian labels arrive in the U.S. and the style of wine becomes more familiar, his customers are quickly taking to them. As for helping customers navigate unfamiliar wine territory, some Max's units will group a number of wines together as "unique whites" to attract the adventurous guest. "That's a fun category for us, and we categorize our wines mainly under what makes the most sense for the guest—not always regionally or varietally," Higgs says. Oleana's wine list uses unique descriptor groupings. "Saffron, Vanilla and Toasted Orange" heads the six-wine grouping of full-bodied whites, while "Barberries, Sumac and Hibiscus" leads a group of light-bodied reds from Jura, Friuli, Sicily, the Loire Valley and Solano County, CA. "I'm hoping this gives a sense of the wines; those are notes that will resonate or put you off," Friel says. She also aims to group similar wines with different price points "so if they love, say, a chenin blanc but not at our price point, or if they are feeling fl ush and want to spend more, this helps as an anchor point grouping more-recognizable varietals with their less-recognizable cousins." Food pairings also offer an opportunity to introduce guests to unique wines. At Straw Valley, Dexheimer looks for wines with medium weight and interesting aromatics. He believes that unique grape varieties often offer a better situation for the entire table if guests order a bottle. Straw Valley will sell a lot of California cabernet and pinot noir as well, he notes. "But the majority of our guests want to feel that there's at least an attempt to pair something with their meal, and the sense of adventure they have is cool." Jack Robertiello is a wine and spirits writer/consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Straw Valley offers a variety of unique wines and cocktails. In Wine We Trust To help guests through any wine list—particularly when you include offerings from more obscure and emerging regions, the guests have to trust you, says Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, co-owner of Straw Valley Food & Drink in Durham, NC. His list includes wines from place like Sardinia and Croatia. "We have a consumer base that's receptive to putting themselves in my hands, but there are enough comfortable choices on the list for anyone, and then a lot of interesting things with a broad palate of fl avors." Dexheimer says. "But there's nothing for building trust like when a table is looking at a $75 pinot noir and you bring them something interesting they never heard of at $60 and they like it—now we are in a relationship." Unique wines from emerging regions can help forge that, he adds. The down side? "Now I'm forced to fi nd new wines all the time because I have a pool of guests who come with a sense of adventure," Dexheimer says. At Max's Wine Dive, building a relationship with guests is part of the concept. All locations have a "try-before-you-buy" philosophy, says Jacob Fairchild, one of the Houston, TX-based company's leadership and development managers, so servers are encouraged to get as much wine tasted as possible. "It's a very approachable way to get customers into the right wine and to introduce them to what we serve." Middle Eastern food restaurant Oleana in Cambridge, MA, offers wines from Greece, Liguria and Slovenia, among other countries. "I choose every wine to elevate the food," says wine director Lauren Friel. When a guest is unsure about her choices, "I'll say 'Trust me—let me hold your hand.'" You have to develop that trust with guests to get there, Friel notes. "When you're taking someone someplace they've never been before, it's important they feel like you're on their team."

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