Cheers - March/April 2016

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 7 of 59 8 • March/April 2016 SIX TIPS FOR TEACHING STAFF ABOUT WINE Wine service can be intimidating for both customers and staff. But proper training can instill confi dence in servers so that they can put guests at ease and help them select a wine to enhance their dining experience. Here are a few quick tips. 1) Give staffers a taste. Holding regular wine tastings for your staff increases their wine knowledge while also allowing them get familiar with the wines on your list, says wine expert Dwight Furrow, an educator at The Sommelier Co. Encourage your team to articulate what they taste and take notes during these sessions so they can remember what they discover. 2) Speak their language. Wine tasting is known for its fl owery adjectives, but start with terms and descriptions your staffers are familiar with. You can use analogies to illustrate concepts, says consultant Laurie Forster, a.k.a. The Wine Coach. For instance, when discussing the body or viscosity of wines, try comparing them to skim milk vs. whole milk vs. half and half, and use citrus fruit fl avors to describe levels of acidity, and so on. 3) Get your wine suppliers involved. You can ask your distributor for some sample bottles for staff tastings, Forster says. The vendor might even lead a wine tasting or educational session for you. Distributors often want to solidify their relationship with their customers, Furrow says, and conducting a tasting is another way for them to promote their wines. Winery associa- tions and importers have similar incentives, and most will supply educational materials. 4) Provide basic food-pairing guidelines. For instance, servers should know to match the weight of the dish with the body of the wine, and understand that how a dish is prepared—especially chicken and fi sh—makes a difference in pairing, Forster says. Cover some of the best and worst combinations, Furrow advises, so that servers can steer people away from disasters without being a slave to the rules. For example, light salads require light-bodied wines such as sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, he notes, while heavy meat dishes, especially those with ample fat, go well with big, tannic reds such as cabernet sauvignon. 5) Make training interactive. Tasting wines with food and discussions on fl avors can get servers engaged and invested. Training tactics such as role-playing—with one staffer waiting on a colleague pretending to be customer—are great for teaching and building confi dence, Forster says. Such exercises enable servers to practice opening and pouring wine, Forster notes. Plus, role-playing with a coworker helps prepare staffers for what to do in different scenarios, from broken corks to dealing with a guest who doesn't like the wine. 6) Reinforce and reward. You can't expect people to remember something they've been told once, Furrow says. Repeat the information and quiz your staff regularly. Give prizes, such as a bottle of wine, to staff members who perform well. Overall, do your best to make wine education fun and approachable. Unlike many Europeans who grow up with wine as part of everyday life and culture, Forster says,"people in the U.S. often feel a little insecure about wine." Helping staff and guest overcome those insecurities can go a long way in enhancing customer enjoyments and wine sales. —MD DRINK CULTURE SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS AVA: PERFECT FOR PINOT NOIR Home to 6,100 acres of vineyards, the 12-mile Santa Lucia Highlands AVA not long ago was but a vision. Spanish missionaries fi rst planted vines in the region, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, in the 18th century. For the next 200 years, winemaking came second to raising livestock. Then Nicholas and Gaby Hahn arrived in 1979. They were on a tour of California to invest somewhere in a winemaking venture. After the Hahns stopped in Monterey for a break, they realized that they may have stumbled onto something. The diverse weather conditions of the region posed intriguing winemaking conditions. While generous morning sun bakes grapes, the heat is offset by fog and heavy afternoon winds that sweep up and over from nearby Monterey Bay. Wind gusts around 14 to 15 MPH slow photosynthesis and lengthen the growing season. The highlands have loamy-soiled slopes that drain well, and less water is sucked up into the vines. All this results in thicker grape skins, deeper fl avors and darker colors—ideal for pinot noir. Convinced of the potential, particularly for growing Burgundian varietals, the Hahns in 1979 began buying land along the highlands. A year later they launched their fi rst vintage. Hahn Family Wines today owns four vineyards, totaling 650 acres, of the 37 sites along the Santa Lucia Highlands: Doctors, Hook, Lone Oak and Smith. The company was instrumental in getting the area AVA- recognized in 1991. It wasn't easy: The Santa Lucia Highlands, roughly the size of Manhattan, is an AVA of distinct character, according to Philip Hahn, second-generation chairman of Hahn Family Wines. "This area was neglected by California establishments for decades, because they thought it was too warm of an area," said Hahn during a pinot noir-focused tasting held at New York's Trattoria Il Mulino in March. "And you hear about how Burgundian varietals have to be tortured and toughened to be good," he added with a laugh. "Well, plants like sunlight, too." —KS © ISTOCK.COM/ ANDRESR

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