Empire State South has Atlanta buzzing, both literally and figuratively, and their coffee and wine programs are part of the allure. Jonathan Pascual is the guru behind the coffee bar, stocked with Counter Culture beans, and has a unique concoction to battle the Atlanta heat – “Georgia Coffee: Served in a 16-ounce Mason jar, the iced coffee comes creamed and sweetened. Shaken not stirred.” True enough, he employs a cocktail shaker to whip this one into a frothy delight. The coffee menu also lists our very favorite espresso preparation, the Cortado – “Served in a Gibraltar glass, the 4-ounce beverage is for someone who wants to taste the espresso but not be overwhelmed by steamed milk.”
On the wine side, wine director Steven Grubbs has assembled a delightful list, heavy on Burgundy and Riesling. We’ve already added them to our Thirsty Guide to Atlanta, and if you get there soon, you can take advantage of one of the best wine deals in town – a bottle of Claude Genet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne for $40. This is a crazy good price, and a crazy good wine (see Grower Champagne, AKA Farmer Fizz), with a nose of toasted almonds and yeasty biscuits (is there such a thing?), followed by hints of vanilla, baked apples, a burst of lemon, and a finish that manages to be both crisp and creamy. No telling how much of this they have left in stock, but it’s a steal. And works wonders alongside their peach tart dessert.
We’ve yet to tap into the cocktail list in any significant way, but if the coffee and wine are any indication (not to mention the nice selection of American whiskey you can see behind the bar), there are delights there as well.
A peek inside. First, the coffee bar and the Georgia Coffee all wrapped up:
Then, the selection behind the bar, and by the glass:
Finally, a happy table, graced with Claude Genet Champagne, oh, and some food!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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