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Multiple Wines From the Same Producer On a Wine List

What are your thoughts?

I am being specifically vague as not to influence how you regard my question. I am interested in every variation on this theme.

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  1. It depends on the wine list. If it's a whole book, I don't mind say if they have say, both Chateau Montelena's chardonnay and their cab, or if they have both the Ridge Montebello and the Lytton Springs etc. They are great exemplars of wine and I understand showcasing both.

    On the other hand, when I order a wine off a wine list, I usually order one that I have a hard time obtaining, one I haven't had before etc. If the wine list is short, and then on top of that, is dominated by a producer I already know well, the wine list becomes disappointing to me.

    5 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Bar Agricole in SF's list is a perfect example of this to me. When you have a 100 bottle list with 15 or so producers, I'm likely to just order a cocktail.

      1. re: plaidbowtie

        Who are those 15 producers?

        I might agree, or maybe not. It just depends on those producers.

        Hunt

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Francois Chidaine, Pinon, Huet, Pepiere, et al..

          1. re: plaidbowtie

            I see some good producers in that list, though do not know them all.

            So long as a respected producer is represented, I do not have an issue.

            On one recent, 232 page wine list, there were two full pages from E. Guigal. I understand that. There was one page from Larry Turley (Zins and Syrahs), and almost two from Paul Hobbs.

            To me, it depends greatly on the producer. If they had dedicated 200 pages to the wines of E & J Gallo, or Sutter-Home, then I would question things, and quickly.

            Now, that example is probably extreme, to a great extent. Recently I HAVE encountered much smaller lists, that were almost exclusively the wines of Sutter-Home, though sporting the various names. I was NOT impressed.

            So, it depends, and can depend greatly.

            Hunt

      2. re: goldangl95

        Good point. I would have zero issue with any wine list, heavy in Ridge.

        Same for Larry Turley.

        Same for Fred Shrader.

        It would just depend.

        Hunt

      3. Wouldn't matter to me at all. It likely would indicate not the best of lists, but how many of the restaurants you go to have the "best"? Some wine lists are better than others.

        I am curious why this would turn someone so against a wine list as to not buy wine at all - for that reason. Not that there arwe nothing but bad wines or wines one is not interested in, but as in the example given by plaidbowtie. A wine list with 15 producers with maybe a half-dozen wines from each. (100 wines total). Why "just order a cocktail"?

        How about if a wine list had 15 wines from 15 different producers? What's the difference (and don't say 85 wines.)

        4 Replies
        1. re: FrankJBN

          This would be the difference (at least for me). With a wine list that is a book (thinking French Laundry as an example), the restaurant is basically claiming that they have in their cellar, a wide and diverse selection of all the wine in the world that should be served at the French Laundry. If then one opened that book, and it had 15 producers in it. There is no way that it represents the best of Barolos, and the best of Bordeauxs, and the best of Cult cabs etc, the best burgandies etc.

          In a small wine list, with say 15 wines offered total, the restaurant is usually saying here is a personal list, of wines the sommelier, has an interest in. Here are some reds and whites that could be of interest to you. It may only feature a couple regions, or 5 producers etc. Now if all 5 producers, are producers I consume at home, that is disappointing to me - but I don't condemn the restaurant for it. They do not claim nor seek accolades for their wine program, and I don't evaluate such restaurants on the strength of their wine program.

          In the French Laundry case, however, if they only have 15 producers, I would condemn it. Restaurants that claim to have world class wine lists, should have a varied, diverse, and exciting cellar. They market their wine list as such, and so I feel like I can take off points if the wine list is disappointing.

          Just to be clear - the French Laundry does not do that, and has a pretty interesting and varied list.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            I have to say I agree with Frank. If what they are doing is providing the wines of good estates and offering bottles at varying price points, I don't see any problem with that. If I were looking to order a Rioja, some nights I might want to splurge on the Gran Reserva and other nights I might be happier getting the Reserva at a lower price.

            The three most common issues I have with wine lists are (1) There's nothing reasonably priced; (2) The opposite problem that there's nothing very good; or (3) The list is just boring dominated by well-known wines that while not bad are not particularly interesting without much variety in varietal.

            Once I find one wine that I like and think will pair well with the food being ordered at a price I'm willing to pay, I'm satisfied. Whatever else is on the list (unless it's something I'd rather order) is somewhat academic at that point. If it is a really nice restaurant, I might expect a better wine list but my main concern is just finding something that I'd like.

            1. re: FrankJBN

              I agree completely. One place, that we frequent, have maybe 50 wines by Paul Hobbs, and 40 by Garand Staglin (or Sherrie), and I would never take that as a negative. They also have a 20 year vertical of La Tache, and close for several other DRC's, and I do not see that as a negative - other than that I cannot do such a vertical, even over 10 days.

              Now, if the producer was Ernest & Julio Gallo, I might have different thoughts. However, without knowing the producer, I cannot comment directly.

              Hunt

              1. re: FrankJBN

                Frank, this is a completely personal thing-
                When I look at a wine list I can, depending on the restaurant usually tell you a) how much the bottle costs wholesale, b) their markup, and c) who they bought it from. The higher the frequency is that I can do that, the less likely I am to spend MY money. I often know exactly how much wine costs, and how much I could pay for that exact same bottle, as I have those resources available to me (indirectly).

                A list that has nuance to it, and things not as easily found outside the mainstream Sommelier catnip is more likely to grab my attention. Again, it's a totally personal thing, and YMMV

              2. "specifically vague" ....love the phrase.

                I would introduce a geographical component, the most obvious would be a large metro areas offerings that may span the globe vs an area with less diversity (cuisine and/or acceess, and or fiscal resources). All to say, I love seeing a number of different wines from the same vintner on the central coast of CA in restaurants, especially if featured BTG. Often I learn of something from a winemaker that I like that was previously unknown to me, and if available only by the bottle intrigues me enough to ferret out that little potential gem.

                Again, this is probably more applicable to the non super star regions of wine country.

                Just my $0.20 (adjusted for inflation) and YMMV

                Cheers,

                Dave

                1. I think it usually means the restaurant got a volume deal on a producer's wines, rather than hand-picking selections based on quality.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    ML,

                    It certainly can be just that, but not always. As cited in this thread, I frequent a restaurant, with a great cache of Paul Hobbs' wines, and many that are not likely to be seen elsewhere. If one just hit the Paul Hobbs page, they might think that they had some sort of deal. Well, maybe they do, but then his wines occupy but one page (spread over several varietals), out of 232 pages.

                    Paul Draper is probably represented on as many pages. Same for Chuck Wagner, Dr Loosen, Costa-Brown, etc. It just depends.

                    Hunt

                    It can just depend.

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Hi, Bill,

                      Yes, of course. I understand what you're getting at. I agree with the examples you've cited.

                      That's why I said "usually" in my post. Most restaurants across the vast expanse of the USA who have lots of wines by a producer are not high-end establishments. That's when you see the brands you've listed -- several wines by Sutter Home, cheap Beringer or low-end Mondavi, or Gallo -- on their lists.

                      It's the rarer case to have a lot of Paul Hobbs, or Kosta-Browne, or Shafer, etc.

                      Maria

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        ML,

                        I do agree. I see too many, that are heavy, if not exclusive to those producers mentioned. I shun those, but do often have to pick something...

                        Those are not wine lists, that I personally enjoy.

                        OTOH, some years back, we found ourselves at a casino/resort, for an event. We dined on-site for about 4 meals. I really hesitated on the first three, as the wine lists were exclusively wines from Kendall-Jackson. I muttered some really negative comments to my long-suffering wife. On the last night, the wine list was presented, and it was horrible! How I wished that we had all of those Kendall-Jackson wines, to choose from. I got "mine."

                        Some restaurants let their distributor fill in the wines, while others actually do some work. If you hand me a wine list, it is usually easy to tell which.

                        I have encountered multi-page wine lists, that were done by the distributor, and here was NOTHING on it, that I wanted to drink. But, I have encountered single-page lists, that show that someone really cared. Those are the ones, that make a positive impression on me.

                        In the end, a wine list does not need to be bound in leather, and the size of an Encyclopedia Britannica edition, to be a good wine list. Large is no guarantee, that the wines will work, and some of the better lists have been a single page - but have included wines, that work well with the foods.

                        Having tons of wines from the right producer, should not be a problem, so long as that producer has wines, that work with the restaurant's food.

                        Hunt

                    2. re: maria lorraine

                      ML,

                      Now, and on the other side of that coin, I have encountered too many wine lists that have mostly wines by Sutter-Home, or Gallo, under all their various names. That is not a positive with me. I have seen the same with the older Mondavi, where almost every wine was from their portfolio - regardless of the name. THAT is a turn off, but am not sure what the OP is intimating.

                      Hunt

                    3. Okay, off to a great start. Thanks to those who've contributed so far.

                      So, let's add this in, is a vertical different than a horizontal?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: ellaystingray

                        Yes.

                        A "vertical" is the same wine, over several vintages.

                        A "horizontal" is the same vintage, but from different vineyards, or different producers. A good example would be a half-dozen wines, by different producers, all from the Pisoni Vineyard, or would be all Shafer Cabs, from different vineyards, but in the same vintage.

                        I have had great fun with each, and collect examples of each.

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Bill, I meant in regard to mulitple listings. Say for instance, would it change the way you thought about a list if you found Robert Mondavi Reserve Cab, Reserve Fume, Reserve Pinot and Reserve Chard or four vintges of Reserve Cab?

                          1. re: ellaystingray

                            If I read the question correctly, then NO. I often work with wine lists, that have multiple verticals of many wines.

                            Now, if they ONLY had wines from Mondavi, I would be a bit suspect.

                            Same as an example above, where ALL wines were from Sutter-Home, but under several of their different labels. OTOH, one would have to sort of know WHICH were their labels, as the wines might appear to be from different producers. Sometimes, I think that THAT is the point, but might be wrong. Maybe a distributor can chime-in, on a wine list, that is very heavy on the wines from a particular producer, though reflecting many different labels.

                            To me, such indicates that the restaurant is lazy, and cares little for the wines. They let the distributor design, and dictate the wines, regardless of their pairings with the kitchen's food. I do see such, all too often.

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I don't know if laziness can be the sole factor, although Im sure that happens also. In my mind when I see a list that comes completely from Southern/Youngs Market, I think that they can't afford to have someone dedicate the time necessary to do more. Combined that with the often overloaded schedules restaurant managers have day to day, it's easy to pick something out of a book, and call it a day. It can easily be a full time job solely running a beverage program, let alone the daily tasks that needs to get done that no one ever thinks about.

                              Now, if there is a dedicated wine director on staff, then yes, I agree with you- lazy. I'm also not defending those lists, either- they disappoint me as much as anyone.

                              1. re: plaidbowtie

                                I am sure that I was being a bit short there, and there are many considerations, with putting together a good wine list - and not just those that are leather-bound, consisting of 500 pages.

                                Back in Denver, a friend of mine was a sommelier at a high-end French restaurant. He "moon-lighted" by providing support for smaller restaurants, with limited wine programs. He held tastings with the kitchens, and then worked on a list for them, plus training time for the servers (no sommelier, or wine-steward on premisis).

                                For me, it was easy to tell the wine lists, that Bob worked on, as they were usually "spot-on," and seldom contained ANY of the "usual suspects."

                                Some of those restaurants were rather eclectic, regarding the foods, and the wine list mirrored that.

                                I have no idea what he charged, as a consultant, but the selections were very good to excellent - unlike what many restaurants end up with, just relying on the distributor, who probably has never tasted any dish, from the kitchen - he/she just draws from their portfolio, and fills the list with the wines that are not selling. Might be a reason for that?

                                Now, we often find ourselves in ABC states, and it's easy to spot those, as each restaurant, from the mom-n-pop, to the highest-end places, have the same (or so very similar, that one would say "the same") wine lists. Those are provided by a board, and one, that probably has never tasted either the wines, or the fare from the kitchen. Still, they have the ultimate power, and will usually have gone with the wines of one distributor.

                                I'd almost love to be the "fly on the wall," in those ABC meetings, but would probably be screaming my little fly-lungs out! "Do not choose THOSE wines!" "Get real. Taste the foods first!!!" Yeah, I would be a hoarse-fly.

                                Spent a few days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and dined at several high-end (for the Coast) restaurants, and was totally underwhelmed. Our "event" was at a location, that had access to "better wines," and I ordered all of those, for my table, just to break from the ABC trend.

                                I see too many of the "distributors' wine lists," and especially in the Deep South. I resent them, and try my best, to get past them, even if it means high "corkage" charges, and I am seldom doing BYOW. I just resent having a bunch of bureaucrats creating a wine list for me, especially as how many do not consume wine, spirits or beer - yet they have ultimate control, and know nothing. Still, they wield the power, and it shows, all too often.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Hiring a consultant can be a very popular option. The problem with this is that you then have to find someone that both a) a fully developed palate as it relates to food the kitchen is putting out and b) has a great business sense.

                                  It's a very rare person that has both. Sounds like your friend is one of them, and that's why they are able to charge as much as they do. No one else wants to sit in front of Microsoft excel with OCD-like fervor for 8 hours at a time.

                                  1. re: plaidbowtie

                                    Yes, Bob was a rare "find" for several smaller restaurants, and it showed.

                                    I know of two others, in the San Francisco Area, who do the same. Their wine lists are up there with many of the revered "wine meccas," and again, it shows.

                                    Hunt