Today’s post-recession restaurant customer demands a significant Wines-by-the Glass (WBTG) program. A truly inspired wine list drives curiosity, welcomes exploration, and invites sampling. Properly priced WBTG programs can motivate guests to sample specialized selections within affordable ranges. Finding such an inspired wine program in fine dining and casual chain restaurants can be challenging, but examples of excellence exist. Below are details of several multi-location, specialty restaurants, and Locavore restaurants that offer distinct wine-by-the-glass programs.
Master Sommelier, George Miliotes is the Wine and Beverage director of the 42-location Seasons 52 fresh grille restaurants, 51-location Capital Grille fine dining restaurants, and 12-location Eddie V’s, New Orleans style seafood restaurants. He anchors all these wine programs with smart and exceptional WBTG selections. George is one of the fewer than 250 (MS) Master Sommeliers worldwide.
George Miliotes, MS, was one of the original creators of the Seasons 52 concept. In these restaurants, he features over 65 choices of wines-by-the-glass with selections from 14 different countries and starring over 26 grape varietals. A popular aspect of his program is: “Drink them before they are famous.” These wines invite discovery, like the Casas del Bosque Reserva Carmenere, Rapel, Chile. Milliotes and chef Jim Messinger thoughtfully present food and wine pairing suggestions on each week’s menu as well. Happily, a one-ounce sample of any wines on the list is cheerfully offered by the staff and allows guests the opportunity to choose their favorite pour. Logical prices ranges reflect the smart economics of the program, too. Thorough and extensive staff training accompanies this outstanding WBTG wine program; so, your servers can make knowledgeable suggestions. “The beauty of our program is that we allow you to sample wines side-by-side and pick your favorite,” says George Miliotes, MS, in a private interview. (See Q&A with George Miliotes, MS below.)
George plans and directs the annual summer Capital Grille Wine Event, Generous Pour. “We plan a year in advance for this promotion and work with several wineries to create special offerings,” Miliotes notes. The Generous Pour event allows guest to sample up to 7 different wines in the collection for just $25 with an accompanying meal from the regular menu and then refill their favorite. Miliotes works with wineries like Arrowood, Sonoma, CA, and Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Germany, to create unique wines like the Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon, “Catchwire” for this program. “Some of our guests come 3 or more times during the Generous Pour two month season,” George notes. “The iPad wine menu that we have just introduced to Capital Grille has also enhanced our guest experience. This programs rolled out smoothly and guests seem to like it. It allows them to look for wines by food pairings, by varietal, by region, by flavor, and by point score.”
Many specialty restaurants offer wines-by the-glass lists that reflect exotic locations and food origins. A-16 in San Francisco specializes in central and Southern Italian cuisine. This restaurant features a WBTG program with selections from appellations like Campania, Sicily, and Rome (Lazio) including selections like the Cesanese, Roma, Lazio, and the Agilianico del Vulture, Basilicata. The Slanted Door, a specialty Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco, has an award-winning wine list and was recognized by The World of Fine Wine as the Best Short Wine List in North America. Matching wines to Asian foods like “Shaking Beef” and “Spicy Monterey Squid” is not easy, but the Slanted Door offers inspired choices like a Prager Austrian Riesling or a Moncuit Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Champagne.
The “Local Pour” and Locavore / Slow Food* movements in farm-to-table restaurants offer the opportunity to highlight locally available wines. Now that all 50 states have wineries, inspirational choices abound from places like from Virginia, Texas Hill Country, and Long Island. Local wines are paired with local beef, poultry, vegetables, and fruits. Chef Andrea Shackelford of Harvest Seasonal Kitchen restaurant in McKinney, Texas features Texas wines such as Duchman Winery’s Vermentino and Tranquilo Winery’s Tempranillo blend to pair with local buffalo tenderloins and cage-free chicken. At Farmstead, St. Helena, CA, Chef Stephen Barber features their Long Meadow Ranch’s natural grass-fed beef and lamb, along with many WBTG local selections, like “Ranch House Red” from Napa Valley. The Local Pour movement helps to introduce guests to wine and food pairing with the best state wines.
Smart wines-by-the-glass programs give guests the ability to choose the size of the wine pour, offer a taste of a prospective choice, provide a range of prices, and deliver on a wide array of wine styles and vineyard origins. Inspired programs invite feedback and offer new wine discoveries. George Miliotes, MS notes, “We are active on social media and our guests are not shy about giving us comments and telling us what choices they prefer.”
Questions and Answers with George Miliotes, MS interviewed by Tricia Conover, Contributing Wine Editor, PRiME Magazine
Question (Tricia Conover): George, can you describe your job with Seasons 62, Capital Grille, and Eddie V’s?
Answer (George Miliotes): I like to say I have the best job in the world. My office in Orlando is right near our research kitchens. I am the Director of Beverage and Hospitality for Seasons 52, Capital Grille, and Eddie V’s. Because I am so close to our kitchens, I spend much of my day there. I’m in the kitchen watching some of the greatest chefs in the world and working with them on our pairings, wine dinners, wine events, and discussing what the wineries are bringing out.
Q: Tell me about the training programs you hold with your staff to keep them up-to-date on your wine selections and wine and food pairings.
A: When we launch a new location I’m with the staff the whole first week. Additionally, every week we produce a “Miliotes Minute” for our staff and managers that is sent as a training video. Once a month we host a live webcast about various wine topics featuring a live Q&A session. Sometimes we invite special wine personalities like Jean Trimbach, from Alsace [France] to talk about their wines and wine regions. It is important that our staff and managers can knowledgeably answer our guest’s questions.
Q: How do you make your selections and how often do they change?
A: We make an effort to find producers in the top 10% every year. I work closely with many wineries like Selbach in the Mosel. Every 3 months or so we change one or two of our wine selections. I do not look at a time limit. We are looking at more local wines going forward. I select high quality, good value wines. You will not find our wines at the deep discount big box stores.
Q: Tell me about the launch of the iPad wine menus at Capital Grille.
A: The guests seem to enjoy the iPad. They are so used to using iPads at home that there did not seem to be much of a learning curve on the part of our guests. I think it has advanced our wine program. It allows guests to look for wines by food pairings, by varietal, by region, by flavor, and by point score.
Q: With over 12,000 followers at Season’s 52 and 10,700 at Capital Grille, 159,341 “Likes” on Facebook for Seasons 52 and 157,000 “Likes” for Capital Grille, do you find that Social Media has made a difference in your programs or promotions?
A: I am somewhat of an expert on Twitter (@TheWineExpert) and have 8,700+ followers myself. People are always asking me on Twitter about specific jobs, and about wine jobs in general. I’m not sure we’ve totally unlocked the key to what works, but we think Social Media is a growing part of what we do. Our followers are not shy. They even send private messages! I do think social media highlights and uplifts our programs and events, and we are in more and more discussions with our guests.
* A Locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market, for ecological and health reasons. The Slow Food Movement began in Piedmont, Italy and has spread worldwide. Slow Food links the pleasures of the table with a commitment to protect the community, culture and environment. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.
Where to Eat/Drink:
A 16 – 2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, 415-771-2216
The Slanted Door – 1 Ferry Building #3, San Francisco 415-861-8032
Harvest Seasonal Kitchen: 112 Louisiana Street, McKinney, Texas 214-726-0251
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