I have the pleasure of coming up with a wine list for a fine dining steakhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This is my first opportunity to do so and I want to do it right and impress! So my question for all of you, what is your absolute number one wine that needs to be on that list. Steak sauce add ons will include au poive, portuguese inspired chimichurri, brandy braised crab, nebbiolo demi. A focus will also be the marrow of the cow, featured in dishes and used to coat the steaks.There will be a rotating fish du jour option.I would just love to hear opinions from sommeliers around the world on what they think sells and works best in their restaurant. Thank you all so much, cheers!
I'm happy to help you. I know PA is a really tough market to build a great steakhouse list. I'm the wine director at Del Frisco's in Philly. Feel free to reach out to me.
Thank you! Will do. Right now I am in very beginner stages, but this is what we would like the list to look like as of now. We will probably shed about 10 from the list, and I am already making adjustments.
Cabernet Franc: 1 France (1)
Sparkling: Same as the glasses- 3
White: 7 $42-$98
Red: 9 $45-$99
Heavy Hitter: 8 $100-$500
If I may offer my two cents, having grown up in Eastern PA and now a resident in CA, even here it's hard to get people to try a VIognier and Torrentes. Especially Torrentes, which we even have trouble getting everyone to agree on one for tasting/study group that we all like. Also, throw a proper BTG champagne. You won't know how many people ask for it every day, like a Pol Roger, which is very nice, and fills that hole. Some people just need it, and more power to them.
I would also say on red BTG lose the Carmenere, Barbera, and Touriga. Again, hard sells, even in the Southern CA market. I personally would have at least 3 Cabs at different price points, and at least 2 if not 3 Pinots. I know some real Pinot hounds back there, who drink it like water.
Also, as odd as it sounds, look into the Finger Lakes, which is turning out some better and better wines, and I know a ton of people in and around Lancaster, Reading, Philly who take trips up there every summer. Pander to them a little and offer something to draw them all in.
But all in all, I think it's a good looking list to get going with!!!
Good luck, and I look forward to checking it when I get visit back home!
Looks like I'm a few days late on this one but I would echo what Christopher says on the more esoteric varietals. Make those 10% of your list to start and then assess the market. You'll upset investors if they're sitting on stagnant inventory out of the gate.
As for the obvious Cali Chard, Pinot and Napa Cab, don't forget that in this category, people become brand shoppers. They don't want just a $150 Napa Cab, they want THEIR $150 Napa Cab. You need to have at least a half dozen labels of each of these categories. Try to find your diversity in style, AVA, and price point. Someone looking for Rombauer Chard isn't going to be happy with settling for Cakebread. Faust and Silver Oak are nothing alike.
Don't forget that steakhouses are one of the few environments where people spend money like water and where you don't need to overthink your list. Most of the list will sell itself so your servers don't need to know the wines per se, but they need to be familiar with knowing how to identify them on the list, and be proficient in the service of them. You're going to go through more Nickel and NIckel than you will your Douro red BTG. Take advantage of this. Make sure your BTG program helps you to hit your margin and then get those top line sales form your blue chip wines by the bottle.
You also need to build some relationships which is difficult in PA but you're not necessarily going to be able to just buy some Hillside Select out of the gate. Your state supply store may not carry things that you planned to have on your list so you'll need to build a relationship with the store manager and distributor to make some things happen. If you have a mentor you currently work with or have in the past, have them make introductions for you. SO much of this business is relationships.
Some gaps that I see on your theoretical list besides having a greater selection of the big three (Chard, Pinot and Cab)
Chablis - I don't know a steakhouse that doesn't offer raw barSancerre - see above and its also just so well known to people nowRose - so hot right nowMore Bordeaux - but sadly the suits to buy it as much these daysSuper Tuscan - Everyone here would probably rather drink Brunello but you'll sell the hell out of Super Tuscans 10-1 vs BrunelloMore Barolo than Barbaresco - the spenders know it better. Italy will likely be your dog between US, France and Italy but Barolo will always sell in steakhouses and you can have the range of 100-500 and usually find some aged wines. Burgundy - I wish it was a bigger seller at steak houses but you need some for window dressing at leastPetit Sirah - a varietal I always overlook and when I put it on, it inexplicably sells like crazy in that setting. Turley or Stags' Leap are good options for thatDon't be afraid of MerlotFor something a little more esoteric, sagrantino is a good steak wine. When I actually would get a drinker who wanted me to find something for them, I always pushed northern rhone for france, and sagrantino for Italy and people were always happy. Arnoldo Caprai's is what I've been working with.