“We pair every item on our bar menu with a beer or wine,” says Daniel Lobsenz, wine consultant for Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington, D.C. “Our tasting menu has a pairing option as well.”
Lobsenz says the pairing option, which gives guests from five to six wines with the meal for $115, is a great way to get people to try things they might otherwise overlook. One example of a lesser-known wine Lobsenz has highlighted via pairing is Virginia-based Kluge Estate and Vineyard’s New World Red, a Bordeaux-style wine which he says goes well with heavier meat dishes.
“Pairings have always been at least half of our wine list,” adds Chase DuBay, sommelier at Cyrus, a fine dining restaurant in Healdsburg, Calif. “In the past, we’ve had two pairings—the classic and the grand—but we’ve just moved to only offering one pairing. It lets us hold on to less inventory, and it elevates the overall wines we can offer while controlling cost.” The five-course wine pairing is $102, and the eight-course wine pairing is $130. Among the domestic wines DuBay has recently helped move via the pairing: Blagden “Peyton’s Vineyard,” Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2006, paired with Wild Turbot with Matsutake and Junsai and Ginger-Shiso Dashi; Nebbiolo, Giornata “Luna Matta Vineyard,” Paso Robles 2007 paired with Pumpkin Tagliarini with Truffled Pecorino; and Ceritas Pinot Noir “Escarpa Vineyard,” Sonoma Coast 2007 paired with Red Wine Truffled Risotto with Glazed Pork and Braised Cabbage.
At pizza restaurant La Madia in Chicago, owner Jonathan Fox does a special chef’s table the first Wednesday of every month that features a six course menu matched with six different wines for $35. “This gives us a platform to introduce different varietals and different styles of wine. I gauge customer feedback and then think about adding the more successful wines to the list.”
Although many of its wines are well known to its customers, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar, with more than 1,600 units around the country, has been doing more with wine-and-food pairings—and has seen a boost in wine sales as a result. While he can’t give exact figures, Brian Masilionis, manager of beverage and brand marketing for Kansas City-based Applebee’s, believes its Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot, offered for $5.99 to $7.25 a glass in different markets, is a top performer at Applebee’s “because it’s featured as a pairing option on the food menu” with a Shrimp Parmesan Sirloin for $14.69. Overall, while the wine category has a small base at Applebee’s, it’s growing, says Masilionis. “Before 2006, wine sales were eight percent of total bar sales—now wine is pushing 10 percent.”