Today, my HR Director turned us on to this TED Talk video by Susan Reilly Salgado. Essentialy it discusses the ability of great leaders to inspire their employees verses motivating them. The core goal here is to create a work environment in the hospitality industry where our employees internally absorb a culture of "authentic, caring behaviors toward others", and in turn learn to project that culture outward upon our guests. Its a valid argument and one that Danny Meyer and other restaurateurs have put into practice in their organizations, often to great success. Its is not easy, but if done well can make a tremendous difference in the public's perception and reception of your business.
Last night our tasting group was together once again, and we had pre-selected Riesling for the white varietal focus and Syrah for the red. It hink the group's hidden selections were very instructional and we all agree that the blind tasting format, while challenging, makes you a better taster and a better student of wine.
The Rieslings consisted of five wines: two from Germany, one Alsace, one Australian and one from Washington State. The color aspects of all the wines was fairly consistent with pale, yellow to golden throughout. Two of the wines had a slightly more golden aspect than the other three. These wines turned out to be the older vintages and / or the warmer climate wines. The two most fresh and vibrant for color and aromatics ended up being the German wines, but the Aussie was pretty interesting and complex on its own. The least appealing of the group was the Washington State wine; it was a little muted and leaning towards slight oxidation (2013 vintage under screw-cap).
Here are the wines in order of tasting:
Maximum Grunhauser Spatlese 2011
Beautiful expression, loads of fruit in the glass with ripe acids balancing throughout. Pretty classic wine, but very young, still.
Trimbach Cuvee Frederick Emile 2007
This showed a slight oxidative note on the nose, and I suggested when tasting blind that it may be from some barrel contact as well as age. Turns out, probably true on both fronts, although i have not gone back to check about the barrel. Dry and austere, but full and complex.
Dönnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett 2015
My pick of the night. This wine is expressive, zippy and long on the finish. Beautiful fruit on the nose with just a hint of sweetness off-setting the racy acids. Could drink all night long.
Jim Barry The Lodge Clare valley 2015
Wow, this wines showed really well. Typical of the Aussie Riesling - bone dry and rippin' acids. Complexity though from the delicate fruit that carried through. Liked this, although I prefer the flowery Mosel and Nahe wines, in general.
Pacific Rim Washington State 2013
A little oxidated and the color was showing it. Kind of lower in the acids making this feel a bit weighty and tired.
For the Syrah, we had a good selection of three wines that pretty much stumped the group, except until the wines opened a bit and started to show. This was mainly when we got further into them and we could compare better. The lesson was basically that syrah is pretty rippin', doesn't have to be huge and tannic and meaty to show well, and none of the wines was from Australia. Here are the wines.
Ramey Sonoma Coast 2014
Pretty much all new wood on the nose with loads of vanilla, smoke, dark fruit. Very New World and I do not think anyone was really thinking this could be anything other than that. It does show some elegance and sleek finesse, but the wood comes out and buries that a bit. Showy wine from a showy winery.
Copain Tous Ensemble 2013 (I think)
This was perhaps the least well identified. Sleek and polished it had some traits that could be described as Old World - earthy, not overly sappy and a bit tannic. The wood was reserved and not impacting. Pretty well styled wine.
Jean Luc Colombo Cormas les Terres Brulees 2006 (my wine)
This was showy and delicious. I wanted to bring something with age on it so the guys without a ton of experience with older wines can get a perspective; this wine definitely helped with that as a few described it as being a few years older, with one pulling 2004 as guess. Definitely not in line with the other two on color - more brick red around the edges, but still quite youthful, opaque and deep pigments. Nose was all about the old world, showing some smoke and meaty flavors, but not too over the top as some Cormas can be. This wine was lovely to drink as it was smooth and polished, had a bit of slightly decayed fruit on the palate, but again still showing a good amount of youthfulness. Wish i had some more of this wine.
The conclusion at the end of the night was that we are all getting better at describing the wines along the CMS grid, we are all getting better at cataloging our flavor and aroma characters and we are learning to eliminate the variable to draw more educated conclusions. Riesling was complex, Syrah was no slouch, either. Taste Blind!
I do not get very excited about many spirits presentations, but today I had one of the more interesting and well-prepared presentations since I have worked in my present capacity. Why is this important and or interesting to me and potentially you? Glad you asked.
The presenter was the Elana Effat, the Spirits Brand Manager for Martin Scott Wines, out of New York. Martin Scott Wines is also known as Winebow in Ct, and Stacole in Florida – so everyone can and needs to pay attention as most of these products are absolutely available in your market. This was one of the criteria that I placed on the reps and suppliers a few weeks back when I informed them that was in the process of developing a new plan for cocktails 2017 – The Warm Season. (Except Florida, of course, where it’s always warm, and the season is in full swing.)
Our local Winebow rep in CT, Jason Vocke, made sure to pay attention to my list of requirements when setting the appointment, and it greatly appreciated and noted that he had done so. Elana was very well informed and I would say could and will be a valuable resource in the future for trainings and other event needs, to which she is open.
Why was this meeting impactful to me? The items are all new to our little corner of the world. I am looking at and have been speaking about the fact that this year (and for some time now) we are coming under greater and greater pressure from competition, competition in drinks, service, food and style. Guests have many, many more options to spend their dollars and time with than ever before and we need to be on our game, in fact ahead of the game a bit I would say, to make sure we are leaders in this great market of ours. Otherwise, we stand to slowly see our market share diminish, and I for one am not about that. We have the resources, I have the ability, and you should have the desire to maintain your place at the front of the bus when it comes to developing the best bar programs around.
What you are going to continue to see is the market catching up with the things we have been doing for 6+ years, now. Why? Because the competition is learning and doing what we have been doing (and in some cases more), and these things are becoming more mainstream. Better skills, better selection of less-branded-higher-quality products, a diversity of ingredients, crafted ingredients with more combinations – in essence a ton of stuff that we discuss all the time, but not always continue to put into practice.
A few weeks ago I reached out to all the reps we have in the three markets and gave them a list of criteria I am looking for and to learn about, with the underlying premise that I am working on spring/summer cocktails and drink lists. This is true. The plan is to source a list of new and innovative products then make a list of recommended drink possibilities. Which brings me back to where I started.
The list of products below was as about compelling a list of new items as I have seen in a while. I have been on the band-wagon in CT for quite some time about the fact that Winebow/Martin Scott has one of the most underdeveloped portfolios in the market, and now that they are combined, I feel there is a huge opportunity with our program to develop and mine the items here.
The real thing that strikes me about what they presented is that the items, every item in fact, is not a mass-marketed brand. These are products that are some of the most quality oriented and thought-out products you will taste, and we have a great opportunity to work with them at the beginning, before anyone else gets them to market. Don’t get me wrong, some of the items are esoteric and there were a few duds, but not much. Mostly, these are delicious and well-crafted products that are setting the trends in NYC and other major markets. Pricing is another issue. Often when I get presented products that are interesting, they are often very expensive, and or have tremendous mark-up for split case purchases. This is not the case with Winebow/Martin Scott/Stacole. All of the items presented today are the unit case price + $0.16, when bought by the bottle. No other company does this in CT or any other markets we work in. This can make a huge difference to your costs (especially in Florida and Mass, but also CT).
As I stated above, I usually do not get all that worked up about a portfolio presentation, but today this one stood out and I am writing and passing my notes along to you as I feel it is well worth you time to read through and lets discover what can be done with these items.
Here are my notes...
Let me just start by saying that I do not pay attention to vodka very often. In fact, I basically refuse to deal with it, but there are so many choices out there and we sell so much of it that sometimes you just have to make sure you are paying attention. I do not go lightly into the vodka brands, but a few struck a serious chord here.
Boyd And Blair Potato Vodka
This is great vodka – it has flavor.
Do we need it? Of course not – we have a million vodkas and people only order Tito’s now, anyway, right? On the other hand. Put this in a cocktail on the menu and you will sell a high quality, American made potato vodka that adds dimension and character to your drinks. Good replacement for Chopin.
Polugar Rye And Wheat
Polugar Garlic And Pepper
This stuff was really cool – Bloody Mary Bar guys take notice (at least to the flavors). These are delicious vodkas. The Caraway was really cool. Garlic and Pepper tasted like a pizza.
Do we need it? Probably not, and the bottles are not very speed-rail friendly. But if you have a specific application these can good items.
Breckenridge Pear Vodka
Breckenridge Chili Chile Vodka
Breckenridge Espresso Vodka
I think this pear vodka should be the only pear vodka to carry. I already have at some locations, its tasty and really authentic, plus not too pricey. The Chile is spicier than St George Green Chile (again Bloody Mary Bars look out) and the espresso was ok.
Do we need it? As I said I think the pear is a must have. The others – by specific application, only.
Boomsma Jonge Genever
Boomsma Oude Genever
Not your grandma’s gin. I have never been a fan of Genever, but these we really good. Subtle Juniper impact, the Oude is aged in barrel and is closer to whiskey a little, but is definitely in a league of their own.
CACHACA / RUM
Novo Fogo Cachaca Silver
Novo Fogo Cachaca Chameleon
One of the best products of the day; especially the Silver. I have never had a cachaça that was so smooth and tasty – way better than Leblon. Chameleon is aged.
Do we need these? I would say that this is an area you can add depth to your list. A classic Caipirinha (and it is a classic drink) can be had when the warm weather hits, and with the subtle rich smooth texture here – it’s a no brainer.
Tremendous value. If you want to make money n your drinks – look to this .35/ounce killer. You do not need another cachaça except for the one above from Novo Fogo. These are way apart in style and application.
Thomas Tew Rum
Made by the Newport Distilling Co in RI, I used to not like this very much. A black molasses based rum, pretty good style now with more aged involved, and very local.
Do we need this? Probably not and there is a lot of pressure on brands, but it is a good local item. I prefer the Ragged Mountain Rum from Berkshire Mountain Distillers, though.
TEQUILA / MEZCAL
Tapatio Tequila Blanco
I cannot say enough about this item. In our program, I have positioned the base tequila as a reposado as I have always felt that this was the best example of the product – at least at the lower price points. The interesting thing about our positioning system is that the silver tequila in (most of) our locations is usually a premium brand (Patron or Don Julio). The tequila world has changed a lot in the past 5 years, and I see a place for an exciting, well made and affordable silver tequila that will enhance people’s view of the category, not make them puke and hate it forever. This is new to CT market, it is a leader in the tequila rage happening now in most major cities in the US.
Do we need this? Yes. El Jimador Repo should continue to be the go-to house selection, but for specialty margaritas on your spring and summer lists, this tequila should be set against the backdrop of fresh citrus and other concoctions that I know will come from you.
Tapatio Tequila Blanco 110 PRF
Not for the faint of heart, but the trick here is to use less in a margarita. Why? The lower water cut level allows the true flavors of the tequila to enhance and promote whatever it is mixed with. Or you can just make Mexican Firing Squads. It’s very cool, but you need to know the way to use it.
Calle 23 Blanco
Calle 23 Reposado
Calle 23 Anejo
Interesting and cool, but not really needed in my opinion.
Peloton De La Muerte Mezcal
I have been a proponent of the Fidencio, but I am feeling as though this should become our go to for Mezcal. High quality all the way through, but a little less expensive and readily available. Plus, I like the name and the authentic bottle is really cool.
Do we need it? I would say yes, this should definitely replace any Sombra still in the locations, and you should begin to switch from Fidencio as needed. This is good and mellow, but carries the flavor well.
WHISKEY / BOURBON / SCOTCH
Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon
Dave Pickerell is the master distiller here. You may know him from such brands as Whistle Pig (current master distiller) and Maker’s Mark (former Master Distiller). Great personality and speaker. I am working on getting him in for an event in April.
Do we need it? Only if Dave is coming into town, but this is some of the smoothest whiskey you may get to taste.
Rough Rider Double Casked Bourbon
Rough Rider Bull Moose Rye
Kind of interesting – the Bourbon more than the rye, but this could be good from a price point of view with a specific application.
Corsair Triple Smoke Whiskey
These guys make a lot of stuff, and we use some in a few locations. The interest factor here is that they are making their distillate from beer malts. These work really closely with beer pairings and side-by sides. The beer oriented locations could do well with these items. No too many whiskies out there like what these guys make.
Highland Queen Blended Scotch
Isle Of Skye 8 Yr Old Scotch
Kilchoman Machir Bay Scotch
Tullibardine 225 Sauternes Finish
I did not taste the first scotch on the list (blended, both), but the last two are well worth taking a look at. The Kilchoman is a from Isle and is made in the same stills as Ardbeg. Beautiful and rich in flavor, a newer still since 2005, so the style is still evolving. Very good though.
The Tullibardine is one of the few distilleries to distill, blend, age and bottle on site. The finish is in Sauternes barrels, and the overall style was super smooth. This is very good and not very expensive in the category.
COGNAC / ARMAGNAC
Darroze Grandes Assemblages
I am not sure we get a lot of call for this category, but I can see it on list for Max Downtown, Cooper and others. Very good item.
I also tasted the 2004 and 1980 Vintage Armagnacs. This is THE source for the category.
Bache Gabrielsen 3 Kors VS
Bache Gabrielsen Xo
The interest factor here is on the 3 KORS. It is a mark being discontinued by the distillery, and I on close out in CT. March 1 will will be $15 per bottle, and there are 15 cases in house. This is tasty and can make an excellent cognac for classic cocktails or a in sangria.
The XO is super delicious but how much XO cognac are you getting calls for?
BITTERS / SYRUPS / TONICS / VERMOUTH / and other cool stuff
Marolo Grappa And Camomile Milla
Wow. You all need ot get into these products. The Italian locations especially need to pay attention here an enhance you rback bar offerings. Very interesting cocktail applications as well.
There are a number of grappi manufacturers out there, but these guys have a wide range of very interesting and cool flavors to work with. Working on a dinner that pairs the grappa wine sources with the wine producers that grow the base juice.
Balsam Amaro Americano
Very small producer – this is a bartender form Chicago that makes his own Amaro. Its delicious.
Do you need it? I think everyone needs to explore Amaro more.
Del Professore Vermouth Dry
Del Professore Vermouth Rosso
Ok, so here was the winner of the day for me. The Traditional Italian (white vermouth, but you need to forget what you think about vermouth) is stunning. The Rosso is just a few notches behind but quite impressive in its own right. Made by a Bartender from Rome, these are about as perfect a drinking vermouth as I have come across. I want to see a drink called “Del Professore” with 2 parts Gin, 1 part vermouth and a few dashes of orange bitters (yes, I know it’s a martini, but it is so good and if you call it a gin martini then nobody will buy it – just tell them it’s a really cool cocktail and it will sell.)
Do you need it? The white – yes. If for nothing else to drink on your own. Also great for low-alc cocktails (another trned that is happening very much, right now).
Carlo Alberto Vermut Rosso Di Torino
Very good, but see notes above.
Vilya Spirits Extrait Absinthe Verte
We can stick with St George for all Absinthe needs, but let me know if you get tired of them – this stuff rocks.
Jack Rudy Sweet Tea Syrup
Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic Syrup
Jack Rudy Small Batch Grenadine
For those of you not making grenadine in house, you need to make grenadine in house. This is really good, but you can (and some of you do) make really tasty grenadine.
Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic Syrup
They recommend adding a shot to a glass of IPA – not sure how many takers we get on that one, but it is really tasty product. If you have made any drinks with French bitters, this needs a serious look. I like Breckenridge Distillery very much, and this is made with all locally sourced botanicals in the Rocky mtns.
Do you need it? I think some of you do. At least for specific applications on seasonal menus.
Continuing my quest to find you the newest, coolest and bestest, I have had another series of meetings this week with suppliers. This is part of my Spring/Summer cocktail list development, which means i have been meeting with a number fo my suppliers to see what they have in hteir portfolio that is not "standard" stuff! I sent them all an email outlining my requirements and desires for new item presentation and some have done a great job in digging a little deeper and finding items that are different.
This meeting was specifically with MS Walker (a Mass distributor) On Premise Director, Roger Biron, and their Craft Spirits Portfolio Manager, Ben Sandrof.
The particular message I delivered to my guys this week is fairly similar to the one I have been preaching for years, and that is there is a world of great product out there beyond the standard 50 brands. I know it is a fine line between distributor and consumer pressure to buy/sell the popular brands verses the explosion of great crafted products that are now on the market.
One of the things this series of tasting has driven home for me is continued need to broaden our (my guy's) collective horizons and not just continue to make the same old, with the same old. If you happen to get yourself to any large market, such as Boston, NYC or Miami, you will see that there are very few high performance, progressive bar programs that rely on the standard 50. I am well aware that many of these hipsters-types shy away from brands, but they set the tone for the rest of us. There are also plenty examples of smaller market success with non-big-brand programs. It may take a few years to trickle down to our markets, but these are the trends, and if your longer term goal is to attract and keep younger drinkers, then evolution needs to be your path.
I will repeat – I know this is not easy and sometimes the guest just wants the 800th (fill in the brand) vodka martini of their life. But more and more, we are selling great quality, great tasting drinks that are not relying on the brand name to carry. You and your bar team should be the reason people buy drinks in your restaurants, not the over-priced brands.
Here are the highlights from MS Walker…
Hanson of Sonoma Organic Vodka – ASG in CT and RNDC in FL
Two items presented – regular and cucumber
Not another vodka! But every one of these guys cannot help but bring a vodka or two. Do we need them? No, of course not. Do I need to know what is out there? Of course.
This product is actually pretty good, from Sonoma and made from a grape base. Lighter and fruiter than a lot of vodkas, pretty tight cut on the still, so super smooth. Not bad stuff if you need a well packaged and good tasting domestic vodka.
Also tasted me on the cucumber – decent, but I think we can make out own infusions, better.
Gin Lane 1751– Brescome in CT, Park Street in FL
Two items presented: London Dry and Pink Gin
The London Dry was a more delicate style of gin, with easy and smooth floral notes. No wow factor, though.
Pink Gin – this is a style based on the actual cocktail recipe. You can make pink gin by adding some Angostura and a dash of lime juice to any gin. In fact, that might make a nice cocktail addition to a summer menu??
I also tasted the Old Tom with Worldwide in CT, the next day. Decent, but very mild and soft (perhaps the point), but i think there are better examples out there.
Malfy Gin – CDI in CT
This is an Italian, lemon flavored gin. we currently stock at one of my locations, and it is a good addition or alternative for a citrus vodka in some cocktails. Definitely a place in warm weather drink making.
Plantation Rum – HP in CT, SWS in FL
Two items presented – 3 Star White and Original Dark, plus we already basically stock 5 year as our go to premium house rum. The rum production for Pierre Ferrand has now become larger than the cognac and other distillates they make. This is a great brand from a taste and value point of view. Did you know the rums are made in the Caribbean and then transferred to Cognac, France for finishing and aging in Cognac barrels?
The white is delicious, and the dark is a mild, rich molasses based rum that is not super dark as it does not have any caramel coloring added. Juts pure sweet cane aged in barrels. Good stuff.
Don’t forget the Pineapple Rum and the Pierre Ferrand Curacao from them as well.
I am planning on a Tiki dinner event later this year with Plantation and PF brands.
Rittenhouse Rye – Brescome in CT, SWS in FL
Bottled in Bond 100 proof Rye
This is the go-to Rye for many top level bars, such as Drink in Boston.
The higher proof actually brings out the flavors of any items mixed with it, and you can actually use slightly less product to account for the higher abv. Its nuanced cocktail production, but it works. Traditionally difficult to come by, they have now caught up with the Bourbon demand and have available regularly.
Pikesville Rye – Brescome in CT, SWS in Fl
Another higher proof rye at 110
Super smooth, backbar style rye that is pretty cool.
Elation Pear – Fratello Hazlenut Liqueurs
Not sure if these are in CT/FL, but will find out if interested.
Ok, so we have a lot of success with Pear. Pear vodka as a base for “'tinis”, or Pear Liquor such as St George for mixed drinks. It is a really good, and attractive flavor for many people. Here is a fabulous liquor based pear that can be used instead of St George (although my preference is still probably with St George).
The Fratello, on the other hand, easy substitute for the ubiquitous Frangelico. Much dryer and more streamline in its flavor profile – this stuff is great and easy to make drinks with. Cheaper, too.
Chareau – I think I tasted this at Stacole tasting in FL, last fall, but can check if interested.
This is a crazy item. Aloe is the base, but with spearmint, citrus and other flavors. It is pretty much like nothing you have ever tasted. Mix with drinks, white wine, totally summer in a bottle. Recipes online.
Really great line of bitters with interesting blends, such as Jamaica #2, Cherry Barrel aged, and Trinity
I can see if available in the local market, but always available on line.
More notes to come, meeting with Brescome and Worldwide later today.
I am going through my old files, and am basically going to be posting everything I can on the site. I have a tons of stuff in my "library" and it's high-time I share it with the world rather than letting it sit in a digital dustbin.
This file is about Old School California Pinot Noir Clones, and while I cannot remember exactly where it came from, it looks like it was taken from a seminar I sat through with Chad Melville, a number of years ago. I do not believe I originally wrote this material and am not taking credit for it, just simply sharing the information as it is good reading. With references to the differences and history of many of the clones we taste on a regular basis in Cali wines. I will be looking to fill in some of the missing information over time; these notes will be highlighted from the original text, though.
Pinot Noir Cluster to the right is a shot from Fess Parker Vineyards in Santa Barbara County, not far from Melville Winery.
Old School Pinot Noir Clones
The Pommard selection has been available in California for a number of years and can work great as a stand-alone clone. It is sometimes known for having a meaty/gamey edge, but also expresses itself through very pure dark fruits. Melville has traditionally been successful fermenting these lots with about one-third whole clusters.
One of the oldest clones in the state, the Mount Eden clone was reportedly brought to California in the late 19th century by Paul Masson from one of Louis Latour’s Burgundian vineyards. Locally, it also has an interesting history as it was used to plant the Sanford & Benedict vineyard in the early 1970s, while subsequent cuttings started the pinot noir at Lafond in the early 1980s. Melville procured budwood from Lafond in 1998. This clone is very dark and rich and offers tremendous bass tones to the wine. Melville has been very successful experimenting with different levels of stem inclusion for this clone. Similar to the Pommard clone, Mount Eden also displays completeness standing on its own.
This clone also has historical significance, as it was propagated in the Russian River Valley by Joseph Swan in 1969. Part of Melville’s Terraces section, this block is severely influenced by wind exposure. Due to the battered condition of the clusters upon picking, Melville traditionally de-stems the entirety of this clone. It displays beautiful, bright fruit with moderate richness.
Also known as Jackson clone, it is named after an experimental vineyard that was planted in 1889 near the town of Jackson in Northern California’s Sierra Foothills. This clone is rarely bottled on its own because of both its scarcity and because it lends itself to blending with other clones of pinot noir. The small amount with which Melville works (typically in conjunction with clone 16 mentioned below), has produced light to moderate weight wines with beautiful aromatics.
Like clone 9, the majority of this section is farmed for another client, with a small portion being retained for Melville.
Also known as the Wadenswil selection, clone 2A has been planted quite significantly in both California and Oregon. It has similar characteristics to clone 115 and seems quite complete on its own.
Melville acquired this clone of Pinot Noir from Calera in 2004. In 1973, Calera received cuttings from another California producer who had reported that the original source was from a quality vineyard in Burgundy (Cote d’Or).
Clone 943 originated in the Côte-d’Or of Burgundy, France, and although it was introduced to the United States in 1989, has very limited availability here even today. 943 is one of the few Dijon clones for which the French have negotiated a royalty payment on every bud sold in the U.S. Therefore, very few nurseries sell the clone. Clone 943 produces highly aromatic wines with supple, velvety tannins, deep color, small-berried clusters, and low yields. In fact, this clone has the lowest yield compared with 777, 667, 114, and 115.
In February 1974, the owners of Mount Eden Vineyards selected Merry Edwards, the “Queen of Pinot”, to be their winemaker. Merry made three vintages while at Mount Eden and earned a reputation as a rising star in the California wine industry. In 1975, Merry selected cuttings from Mount Eden’s pinot noir vineyard and sent them to UC Davis for heat treatment (to remove virus) and propagation. This field selection was then named UCD clone 37 (also known as the “Merry Edwards selection”) and became a star performer in the Russian River Valley. It is known for producing beautiful wines with complex aromatics, deep color, and velvety tannins.
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