On a fictitious wine list from a nonexistent restaurant you find 2014 Chateau Niedspondiavanci Chardonnay for $45.
You, a savvy, mobile phone-equipped diner, do an Internet search to find out about it: is it worth $45? Where is it from? But the only search-engine results for the brand has nothing about wine, only a reference to a terrible 1942 joke.
This tale illustrates one of the restaurant industryâs most difficult-to-solve problems: how to offer diners wines that donât compete directly with discount wine shops, a list that could look (and may be) overpriced.
For instance, the reliable and tasty Clos du Bois merlot is on many wine lists. With a standard markup, restaurants often list it about $30 a bottle.
But many restaurant wine managers donât like discount wine shops routinely carrying this popular wine for less than $15. At least a dozen shops list it on their websites at less than $10.
âThat makes it hard for us to have wines like that,â said one Santa Rosa restaurant wine manager. âI want to offer good wines that go with our food, but I donât have the buying powerâ of large discount wine shops.
She said her wine storage space is limited, and she can only buy a few cases of any wine at a time, thus she must pay full wholesale price, forcing her to charge much more than discount wine shops. who â buy in volume and get better pricingâ than she does.
She can offer âprivate labelâ wines, but unknown brands pose problems. Consumers know nothing on which to base a buying decision. âChateau Niedspondiavanciâ may be bulk wine from Paraguay.
For that reason, many wineries now are quietly trying to solve restaurant pricing headaches by producing lines of ârestaurant- onlyâ wines that will never be seen at retail shops or offered to consumers in their tasting rooms.
One sophisticated such program was launched two years ago without fanfare by Kendall-Jackson, whose popular, widely available Vintnersâ Reserve Chardonnay, with a California designation, sells for a suggested retail price $17. I have seen it on restaurant wine lists for $30 to $35.
The 2016 Jackson Estate Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley is offered to restaurants with a suggested wine-list price of $39. It is richly flavored with aromatics of tropical fruit and barrel aging. When served slightly chilled, it works nicely with food.
Without knowing the prices of the four wines in the line, I guessed at the prices, and all are less than I imagined theyâd be. My guess for the chardonnay if available at retail: $35. And it is clearly identified as being made by a reliable producer â not the fictional Niedspondiavanci.
Similarly, a 2016 Jackson Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, is a real bargain today. My first thought was that the retail price should be about $50. At that, most restaurants would charge $70 or more. The winery is offering it to restaurants to sell for $42. A bargain. The grapes for this wine were grown in the Petaluma Gap, a newly approved and already near-legendary appellation. It is superb.
At $45, another pinot, this one from Anderson Valley, also is excellent, but its alcohol (15 percent) is daunting. It is, however, impressive for the price.