When the Wine List Meets the iPad

WinePhone

The New York Times today featured Atlanta’s own Bone’s restaurant and its trailblazing use of iPads in replacement of their traditional wine list. We love Bone’s for their great wine cellar, not to mention the steaks or the very friendly corkage policy, and now they are pushing the envelope in evolving the traditional wine list to something more in tune with today’s wine drinker.

At home, wine collectors can easily hop over to websites like Cellartracker or Cork’d to look up tasting notes and prices on almost any given wine. In retail wine shops, buyers can almost as easily pull up the same information on mobile phone apps like Cor.kz which actually ties in to the Cellartracker database. Do other wine drinkers agree with the 95 point score from “Joe Winereviewer”? Is that special on Chardonnay X really a good deal? Cor.kz even lets you scan the barcode on the back label to pull up prices at other retailers. This is great for the wine buyer, but will clearly put pressure on wine retailers to offer competitive prices as consumer adoption of such services increases. In the end, a more informed, more engaged wine buyer (in the company of a knowledgable and engaged wine retailer) is a good thing for everyone – more appreciation of the wines, more dialog with the wine retailer, more desire to seek out interesting winemakers.

So far, few restaurant diners are so bold as to pull out their iPhone or Blackberry and look up every wine listed on a restaurant menu. First, it’s socially awkward. Second, it’s not so quickly done. Third, you risk suspicious glances from the restaurant staff. But now, as restaurants like Bone’s are doing, if the RESTAURANT enables the technology, those problems all go away. The practice is endorsed by the restaurant, the technology is geared specifically to their list and informing the diner, and it hopefully creates a stronger dialog between the diner choosing a wine and the restaurant’s staff. It’s a win-win situation, and the New York Times notes that Bone’s and other restaurants employing similar technology are seeing increased wine sales as a result.

The question for restaurants to figure out is what type of information will best serve that win-win opportunity. How can they give the diner the right type of and amount of information that will help them choose a great wine from the list? How can they best highlight the strengths of their wine list (even relative to other restaurants in town)? Scores from Robert Parker are one thing, but how about going a step further and including the option to view other diners’ tasting notes? How about letting diners enter their tasting notes at the end of the meal for future reference or for other diners to see? What a way to build loyalty between the restaurant and its patrons.

Technology is an opportunity for wine drinkers, restaurants and retailers alike. The key is understanding that it must serve all sides to really be a success.

In Praise of Drinking Locally

Eat Drink Local

When we travel to distant cities, foreign countries, faraway places, the compulsion to “do what the locals do” is strong. When we see Anthony Bourdain on TV sipping the local drink of choice while digging into the culinary history of a certain place, we understand that to truly experience that place, one must take some small part in the local eating and drinking scene. If I’m in Portland, you better believe I’m drinking Stumptown coffee, trying local microbrews, and scanning the wine list for Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris. It’s all about experiencing what is unique to that place, what is shaped by and in turn shapes that place.

Back home in the South, here in Atlanta, Georgia, we have a burgeoning “eat local” movement fueled by weekly farmers markets, by Whole Foods trumpeting which produce is grown in the region, by so many restaurants who are now subscribing to a Southern “farm to table” philosophy. Eat local. Support local growers and food artisans. Keep Southern food traditions alive (and evolving). For the good of the local economy and environment, for the good of the food itself. Amen.

And, now, trailing in the wake of the “eat local” movement, the “drink local” notion is also taking hold. Not that it hasn’t existed in some form for many years – we love our locally brewed beer, our Sweetwater, our Terrapin. Octane in Atlanta even offers a discount on the Georgia-brewed beers on its small but excellent beer list on Saturday nights. The number of coffee houses that feature locally roasted beans has blossomed. It feels good to know your cup was crafted in the hands of Southern roasters rather than in some far-off mega-corporate warehouse. This, of course, assumes that the local product is good and worthy of our choice, worthy of spending our local dollars on. Does it deliver the joy and satisfaction that an “imported” alternative could? That’s the cost of entry – if our local brewers/ roasters/ growers don’t produce a great beer, roast a mean bean, or grow a great tomato for that matter, they are not going to win a lot of support from the “eat/drink local” crowd.

Georgia and the South in general is definitely there on the beer front, definitely there on the coffee front. Georgia wine is well on its way, and craft distilleries are starting to pop up around the state as well, making vodka, gin and other spirits. So after you’re done picking out some local okra at the farmstand or choosing a selection of Southern cheeses, stop and think about picking up a six pack of good Georgia beer, a bottle of good Georgia wine, or some coffee beans that are at least roasted here in the South that will make for a great cup of coffee. It won’t always be the best choice, but now, often enough, it’s at least a very good choice, a choice worth making.

Georgia Peaches
Photo: Georgia Peaches
Top Photo, clockwise from top left: Piedmont Park Green Market. Terrapin Rye Pale Ale from Athens, GA. Westside Creamery Truck at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Montaluce Viognier from North Georgia. Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta, GA.

First Look: Perrine’s Wine Shop, Westside Provisions District

Perrine's Wine Shop

The Westside Provisions District is coming into its own as an epicenter of Atlanta food and drink. Bacchanalia / Star Provisions, Ormsby’s, Abbatoir, Yeah! Burger, JCT, Figo, Taqueria del Sol, and now… Perrine’s Wine Shop (or Marchand de Vin as they say in France and on the door of this Atlanta boutique). The shop is in soft open mode right now, with a grand opening slated for September 24, but the racks are full of wine and Perrine Prieur, formerly sommelier at JOEL, is on hand to dispense advice on the carefully chosen selection of wine in the shop.

New World, Old World

The first thing of note as you walk in is that the shop is divided into “Old World” and “New World” sections, each of which is ordered from “light” to “full” and white to red, complemented by a small selection of sparkling and sweet/dessert wines. The Old World section is heavily weighted towards France, but selections from Spain and Italy are also numerous. The New World section is weighted towards the US, with a good number of South American wines peppered throughout. The Old World/New World split is a somewhat arbitrary distinction (but what wine grouping isn’t really?) , as certainly there are wines from the US that have an “old world” feel and some from Europe that have a “new world” feel, but the Old/New break works as a basic geographic split given the further context of the “light” to “full” ordering on the shelves. The “light/full” ordering also enables the shop to avoid breaking out all of the various varietals mixed in throughout the shop.

Light to Full

The selections are mostly smaller names and often from wine regions that are not commonly seen in Atlanta (Gaillac anyone? Why, yes, thank you). This is NOT the shop for someone looking to pick up a bottle of Beringer or even Veuve for that matter – but many of the somewhat obscure wines are imported by well regarded specialists such as Jon David Headrick, which is a good sign for wine buyers that quality awaits beneath the cork. That, and of course, having the advice of Perrine as you browse the store should make for a successful wine buying experience.

Cheese

There is a small selection of imported cheeses, and even, what is this? A grape-based skin care line? Hopefully the vines can do for the skin what they do for the palate and the soul.

Perrine’s Wine Shop
1168 Howell Mill Road, Suite B
Atlanta, GA 30318
404-254-5077
Perrineswine.com
Perrine's Wine Shop

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Great stuff is headed your way, just hang tight for a bit…

We’ve already posted our initial Thirsty Guide to Atlanta, covering all things beer, wine, cocktails, liquor and coffee. Our Tasting Notes are still to come and will be rolled out over time, as will Thirsty Guides to other cities in the South. Oh, and if you’re so inclined, grab a Thirsty South t-shirt or mug while you’re here.

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