I’ve noticed a trend with restaurant wine lists.
Many offer wines from grapes and regions most people know very little about: Ribolla Gialla, St. Laurent, and wines from Entre-Deux-Mers, Jura and Corsica.
I get it – a customer says she likes Cab and Merlot, and the server recommends the Entre-Deux-Mers, a regional Bordeaux. A customer likes Pinot Noir, and the server recommends the St. Laurent.
This is a great way for restaurants to show their customers the vast universe of great wine. An eclectic wine list demonstrates expertise and effort in its selections. It also enables a restaurant to charge whatever they want, because it’s not likely their customers will know what it costs to buy a particular wine on their own.
At Pacific Standard Prime, we’re taking a different approach.
As a California take on the traditional steakhouse, we’re working hard to focus the wine list on producers in the Golden State.
And as The Original California Steakhouse, we’ve been researching small producers as well as organic and/or biodynamic producers that are closer to home.
A few definitions are in order. An organic wine is made from grapes grown in accordance with government-regulated principles of organic farming.
A biodynamic wine results from viewing a vineyard as an entire ecosystem. The process may consider astrological influences and lunar cycles, and it doesn’t make common manipulations such as yeast additions or acidity adjustments.
These wines are better for you and better for our planet. The question is how we at Pacific Standard Prime can offer these products at the right value to you.
And there are other questions as well. Can these boutique, organic and/or biodynamic wineries deliver the quality we need to satisfy you as our customers? Can we get enough to have a vibrant and interesting wine list?
We don’t want our wine list to look like the California aisle at the local grocery store, so a lot of time and effort are going into finding great wines for you.
Our first excursion was up the central coast. In Santa Barbara County we went to the quaint, two-block town of Los Olivos to visit the many small family producers, some producing organically or biodynamically.
Everyone we ran across was very nice and took the time to walk us through their wines. There were many really good wines, there were a dozen or so fantastic wines, and there were a handful of exceptional wines.
Some wineries are set up for distribution, some are mailing-list only, some are completely sold out of product, and some wineries don’t have a distributor. Yet all have a passion for what they do, and that is what we are looking for. We’re working to foster relationships with the producers to carry their wines on our PSP wine list.
Many of those producers are right in Los Olivos. You might remember the Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant from the movie, Sideways, with its week-long road trip through the central coast wine country. Los Olivos is a great place to sample wines because the tasting rooms are on two streets, Alamo Pintado Avenue and Grand Avenue.
The town is forty(ish) minutes by car past Santa Barbara, so off I went with my wife, Caroline. We wanted to taste these wines and determine for ourselves if these producers make wines that stand up to their better known and bigger competitors.
Wineries of note start with Dragonette Cellars. Founded in 2005 by two brothers and a very good friend, they take a minimalist approach to winemaking by carefully selecting vineyards and grapes that go into making their wines. Dragonette produces about 5,000 cases of wine per year from 10 different wines.
We also visited Story of Soil. They describe themselves as a tiny producer of sustainable vineyard sites, single varietal, small-lot wines made with everything they have. They make fantastic wines, and I hope they have enough to sell me so we can share it with our customers.
Another stop was Coquelicot (Co-KLEE-co). This is an entirely organic producer. The winery name was inspired by the famous Claude Monet painting of Les Coquelicot – or poppies, the state flower of California.
All of the wineries we visited are very proud of the wines they produce, as well they should be. Each winery has a story, and each story has a compelling human element of people who love what they do and want to share it with others who appreciate the story.
At the end of the day, I left Los Olivos convinced we could in fact create a wine list featuring passionate, dedicated wineries that will satisfy our customers and our vision.