18 Feb 2010
Ripped off and Ticked Off at Restaurant Wine Practices
There are only a few things that really ruffle my feathers, taking advantage of children, arrogance (not to be mistaken for confidence), poor customer service and blatant price gouging. – I also dislike tweeting your Facebook status, but I’ll leave that for another discussion.
Earlier this month there was a tweet-storm over a CNN article that listed the top five “rip-offs” in America. Behind texting, movie theater popcorn, “free” credit reports, and name brand pain killers was…wait for it…RESTAURANT WINE! As a wine lover, this doesn’t just make me grumpy, it pisses me off (sorry mom). High prices at restaurants, in my opinion, have a counter effect on wine consumption.
Put yourself in the seat of an average or beginning wine drinker. You’re enjoying your beautifully made prime rib with your date. Glancing through the wine list causes you concern and great stress. What will taste good with my dinner? What will impress my date? After much deliberation you decide on the $7 glass of Bogle Zinfandel (because you remember reading that your favorite blogger, www.drinknectar.com said it was a decent value wine). You’d love to share a bottle, but the restaurant has the bottle price at $28. OK, here’s the problem – you can buy Bogle Zinfandel for $9 or less at the store…for the whole dang bottle. At the typical 30% discount, the restaurant paid just $6.30 for that bottle. That is more than a 400% mark-up! Would you stand for that kind of mark-up for your TV, your car, your toothpaste?
So, what’s the problem? How does this damage the wine industry? High prices for lower quality wines at restaurants perpetuate the thought that wine is unattainable for the average guy. Looking at restaurant prices, one would think that the entry price for a wine is $25 with most wines cost between $40-$60 per bottle. The problem is compounded when the consumer buys a $7 glass of <insert cheap name here> only to go “bleh, I’m not really a fan of wine.” Well, that’s because it either tasted like vinegar or a giant Welch’s fruit bomb.
Hey, I realize that restaurants work on razor thin margins and high overhead. I understand restaurant owners invest everything they have to pursue their dream with minimal chance of success. When did 400% profit in anything become acceptable! Did you ever think that maybe reducing the price of wine to a moderate profit would increase turn-over, drive bottle sales, increase dessert sales and even improve return traffic? What would happen if you priced that same Bogle Zinfandel for $5 per glass and just $15 per bottle? As a consumer, I’d do the math and think that the bottle sounds like a good value. Not only that, I won’t be ticked if I happen to see that bottle for $9 at the wine shop.
Restaurants are not only guilty of wine gouging – they’re guilty of wine laziness, and red-neck presentation. Wine laziness refers to the restaurant that has amazing food, beautiful preparation, quality ingredients, and a fresh atmosphere – only to have your stock distributor wine list of five reds, five whites and two sparkling wines. The wine list is a representation of mass produced, inferior juice with zero imagination and no consideration for the food pairing. The “red-neck” presentation is the restaurant that puts forth the effort in a decent wine list, has phenomenal food, and then brings 6 ounces of your $50 bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (that you splurged over $120 for) in an 8 ounce small bowl glass that amounts to nothing more than a tasting glass. You might as well serve it in a mason jar. Wine of this caliber should be served in a high quality Riedel big bowl wine glass that lets you enjoy the swirl, sniff sip experience.
Lately, I’ve been to three restaurants that seem to “get it.” Two of the restaurants have a moderate mark up from what I see at the store (between $5-$7) and they have a great selection that includes local wine, regional wine, and unique selections that show care and attention (kudos to Left Bank Wine Bar and Nikos Restaurant in Spokane). The third restaurant didn’t carry a huge selection but their bottle prices were almost exactly what I would expect to pay retail. We enjoyed an $11 bottle of Kiona Cab/Merlot that can usually be purchased at the store for $10 (kudos to Ferrantes Restaurant in Spokane).
What do you think? How do you handle restaurant price gouging? Do you confront the red-neck presentation? Do you bring your own bottle to combat the lazy wine list?
Restaurant owners – what is your response? What say you in defense of 400% price gouging?
Bloggers, wine lovers, and consumers everywhere – unite! Call out the worst offenders, praise the good guys. Do you know any restaurants that fall into the unholy trinity of wine (price gluttony, selection sloth, and glass greed)? Let’s use the power of a unified voice to bring this crime against wine to justice.
17 Feb 2010
Are you a wine blogger? Are you coming to Walla Walla, Washington for WBC10? June 25-27 nearly 300 wine bloggers will converge on South Eastern Washington for networking, education, and FUN! The best part, spending time in one of Washington’s premier wine regions with access to some of the greatest wine produced in the world! I know many of you are reading this and are planning on coming. How would YOU like a few extra expense paid days near nature, near perfect?
Spokane CVB (Visit Spokane) wants to host you. Spokane wants to share its wine with YOU! Spokane is home to one of the oldest wineries in the state and winemakers craft consistently high scoring wines. Enjoy the night at the historic Davenport Hotel, guided tour of Spokane wineries, and breakfast – lunch – and dinner! Flying into Spokane? Transportation can be arranged to Walla Walla for the conference.
Sound good? All you have to do is blog about and promote your experience on your web site, Twitter and Facebook pages. Interested? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org (or DM me @nectarwine) to discuss further. Only a few spaces are available to the most qualified bloggers (the Spokane Visitors Bureau will make the final selections).
Curious? Take a virtual Spokane Wine tour here.
15 Feb 2010
Thirty years! Twenty plus wines in the catalogue! Pioneer in Washington’s premier Red Mountain AVA! Kiona Vineyards and Winery is excited to announce their first ever wine club.
Saturday, I went to Costco because JJ Williams of Kiona was pimpin’ wine there. JJ is the 1 Eye Wine Guy (and yes, he does only have one eye). JJ’s family started and owns Kiona Vineyards and pioneered Red Mountain AVA and Washington wine. There were less than 20 wineries in the state when they planted grapes in 1975. Now, after 30 years of making consistently great product (and selling Red Mountain grapes to several other wineries) Kiona is excited to announce their wine club.
Three shipments per year of four to six bottles for only $125 (plus shipping) gets you library wine re-releases, pre-release wines and special wine club releases of small lot production. Wine club members will also receive 15% off on bottle purchases and 20% off on case purchases.
If you only join one wine club, this is one to consider for the variety, the quality, and the access to the diverse Kiona library. Visit the site to learn more and to sign up.
My apologies for the video not having JJ in frame fully – I hadn’t even had any wine! What is your favorite wine club? What features do you like? Leave a comment.
14 Feb 2010
I was working on a Valentine’s Day post, when @winecentury posed the question, “Is wine sexy?” I had found some sexy pictures that really got me thinking. Now, don’t get me wrong, drinking wine with James @winecentury or Joe @suburbanwino is far from sexy, but wine is the sexiest beverage there is.
While there is something very sexy about a girl who knows how to order a pint of black and tan and watching a girl do tequila shots will always get me going, wine is the sultry goddess of drink.
Consider her ways in the glass. Long slender and delicate, the stem is stretched tight like high heels and stockings. You cup the firm, round bowl of the glass in the palm of your hand feeling the anticipation of the taste. The sensual perfume tickles your nose arousing your senses to the heights of explosion. As you let the flavor wash over your tongue there is a release of passion causing your mind to rush and your cheeks to turn flush.
Wine is most definitely sexy. On this Valentine’s Day, enjoy the sultry, sexy images of wine! I want to thank http://drinksareonme.net for the great moments of inspiration for this post.
I wonder if this is how Naked Winery harvests their grapes.
The following image is not for the prude or inhibited. Cheers and Drink.Happy!
Photo Credit 1) Uncredited image from EventBrite.com 2) Uncredited image 3) Sexypictures.dk
09 Feb 2010
The work I do for my day job got me thinking about wine tracking / wine reviewing database sites. A recent project I was managing mashed together information from 17 web sites creating one global intranet site where 320,000 people view over 21 million pages each month. Over the weekend we launched the site and with a few minor glitches we were live for all to see on Monday.
Through my recent journey of wine reviews and wine blogging, I’ve discovered a need for a repository for the information. At the current pace, I’ll have a collection of 250 reviews by the end of the year. For me, keeping track of and referring to this information needs to be in a simple to use format. While many wine tracking sites are available, I’m reviewing my use of three: Cork’d, Cellar Tracker, and Vincellar.
Each of these sites has its strengths but I’m reviewing them based on my business requirements.
- I want a site that has easy entry of tasting notes, search of existing entries and easy recall of existing entries for comparison
- I want a site that allows me to easily slice and dice my entries by date, grape, price, score, etc.
- I want a site that is smooth, easy to navigate, and is not clunky or disjointed
- I want a site that provides the greatest exposure to the wineries being reviewed
- Nice to have: Connection to other wine lovers
Do you have a wine tracking site that you use? What do you like / not like about it? Let me know in the comments.
VinCellar stats indicate 74,000 users, nearly 600,000 cataloged wines and over 38,000 tasting notes. VinCellar’s unique feature is the ability to catalog, track and even sell your wine through their site.
The user interface of VinCellar is spectacular. The tabbed navigation allows for easy access to your cellar, tasting notes, and the community. Well placed buttons facilitate quick entry of new wine and updating “consuming” wine from your cellar. Overall the navigation is smooth, intuitive and contains some unique features. Each of the database collections is easy to sort, slice and dice for quick analysis of the wine entries.
What I Love:
VinCellar seems to love dashboards. I love dashboards. One of the coolest things for me is the tasting note dashboard that shows a synopsis of the entered wine including web pricing, community tasting note averages, other users who own the wine, and even a quick search menu of everything from Able Grape, Snooth, Wine Spectator and Wine Zap.
What I Don’t Love:
The lack of active users and tasting note entries often returns zero matches for comparison. Use of the search fields does not auto-populate with the data base. The community aspect seems to be focused on buying and selling wine, rather than sharing wine experiences.
Cork’d aims to be the “Simple way to review and share wine.” Cork’d has over 50,000 users. At publish of this article I was unable to validate the number of reviews in the database. Cork’d thrives on being a place where users can share and have a social experience with their wine tasting.
The Cork’d interface is bright and clean. Users can easily create profiles, add buddies and use Cork’d as a “Facebook” for wine conversations. Cork’d is also great at wine education and awareness with their database of grape profiles, winery profiles and the newly launched Cork’d Content that showcases articles about various wine topics.
What I Love:
I love the extensive database of wine and the ease of adding wine that is not already in the database. The format is also very conducive to conversation with other users through the discussion thread format on each database entry.
What I Don’t Love:
The navigation feels clunky and a little outdated. It is not easy to move from task to task, search or filter database entries, and slice and dice my existing entries. While I enjoy the conversational format and feedback of reviews, it takes too much time to find a consolidated list of comparative reviews. The database of reviews seems slightly larger than VinCellar but still returns zero results on some searches.
Cellar Tracker contains the largest database collection of the three boasting nearly 100,000 users and 1.2 million tasting notes. Cellar Tracker is simple in form and function and its users are active. Wine collections can easily be cataloged, tracked, and the data can be sliced and diced seven ways to Sunday.
The best part of Cellar Tracker is the vast amount of comparative data and the ability to filter it. The reports tab also provides an incredible amount of useful information about your cellar, tasting notes, and the community.
What I Love:
The search fields auto populate to aid in searching for the exact match. This feature helps to eliminate duplicate selection as it leads you more quickly to the selection you’re looking for. While on a selected wine (tasting note page) you get a vast amount of information including the ability to bid on user wines for auction.
What I Don’t Love:
Cellar Tracker is the most minimalistic in design. What the database has in data it lacks in navigation, and interface. The text based design is a distraction (to me) and makes using the site cumbersome. Links on the site indicate that a new design is being launched in February (that’s this month). The site doesn’t easily offer a way to connect or converse about various wines.
VinCellar has the best interface with the most effective and visual interaction with the data.
Cork’d has the most social site and a robust wine education component.
Cellar Tracker has the most extensive user group and data base.
I’m going to enter all my existing reviews (currently 70) into each site and experiment more with the best solution. In the end it may be necessary to use two or more of these sites to provide the greatest exposure to the wine reviews and the wineries.
What are your thoughts?