Wonderfully provocative article in the San Francisco Chronicle last thursday on restaurant corkage. This is a hot button issue for wine savvy diners, and your piece exposes the flaws and attitudes with regards to wine markups. While I don't agree with Pizzeria Delfina's policy not allowing diners to bring in their own wine, the restaurant has created a solid and inexpensive list. Any diner should be thrilled with this situation. However, Delfina's Stoll says "What if you collected fine tablecloths... so you wanted to bring one in to eat off of?" At my restaurant I would ask my customer "On which table you would like me to drape it?" Richard Reddington states that "I have investors that I need and want to pay back. How do I make up the profit?" Let me guess: exorbitant corkage and high wine prices? More Reddington: "When you write a budget, you think wine is going to represent a big chunk of your revenue. When it doesn't, the numbers don't make sense." "(Corkage) really undercuts our business model." Sounds like you botched the business model, Richard. Don't make it the diner's problem. Bobby Stuckey of the French Laundry says corkage is only beneficial to people with a lot of money and not beneficial to the rest of us. When I look at a restaurant wine list and see Edna Valley Vineyards Chardonnay for 35 bucks, corkage is only for rich people? Ronn Wiegand says that the markup of wine in restaurants is the same as the food. Great, so the diner pays 200 to 300 percent of the cost on food, and the restaurant says that it can't make a profit unless the same markup is used for wine? Hmmm. Restaurants CAN offer mature wine. They do not have to cellar the wine for years and charge prohibitive pricing. Some wholesalers offer older vintages that can be ordered and shipped within a day or two. So strike that argument. Reddington again: "All that corkage really covers is the 12 glasses that get ruined every night." "We broke a $100 decanter the other night, and there's your corkage." You broke a decanter, and that is justification for charging astronomical corkage fees? Not great customer service. That's right, customer. Restaurants are in the food SERVICE business. On the flip side, the 'BYO' advice listed in the article is golden. Diners, don't bring wine that a restaurant has on its list. And if you DO take advantage of corkage, you should tip as if you purchased wine off of the list. The do's and don't go both ways. And if you are put off by corkage policies, don't dine at that establishment. If you don't like commercials, don't watch T.V. Anyone out there feel the same? Differently? I'd love to hear your comments. And don't worry, I'm not really this cranky. I wrote the above as a letter to the editor but decided it was too harsh. It still is- but my feelings about this issue still strongly favour a corkage policy and a fiscally responsible wine list. --Joe Zugelder
In an effort to stay out of prison, we had to suspend wine shipments to Texas. Recently we got served with a formal cease and desist order from the friendly lone star state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). Seems they believe that Bordeaux or Brunello is ok in Texas as long as it doesn't come by way of an out-of-state retailer like K&L. The Pulitzer Prize winning Dallas Morning News has written their own story on the lawsuit that K&L and other retailers filed against the TABC, fighting back against this insanity. Read the Dallas Morning News coverage. We are part of a group called the Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA) and just recently took the fight with Texas to the next level, filing a lawsuit against the TABC, challenging the constitutionality of Texas' laws prohibiting adult consumers from purchasing and receiving wine directly from out-of-state retailers. Read details about the lawsuit here.
Maybe it was talking to Joe Z about an April Fool’s prank he’s playing or perhaps it is that after 110 times of writing this column I’ve got a feeling of hmmmmmmmm, what should I write about? Why would I have this malaise with all of the great Italian wine available today? I do have a bunch of incredible projects I’m working on to bring you starting (hopefully arriving in June) with Rocca di Montegrossi. One of Chianti Classico’s best producers is now going to be a direct import for us. Wait until you taste these wines! Or the new producer Mike and I visited, Ca’ Berti and their Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, hillside vineyards and hand picked Lambrusco. Wow, you won’t believe them. Or all of the wonderful new vintage wines from Ermacora, Silvano Follador, Blason and Ruggeri Corsini, and several other projects that are in the works all tremendously exciting but I can’t write about those yet… Well here is the big news I can tell you: I’m going to rename my column once again because I’m moving to Hollywood! No, I’m not going to hang out in Schwab’s Drug Store waiting to be discovered. I’m going to be bringing K&L’s Italian wines to the southland sometime late this summer! Meanwhile, we still have a great selection of Brunello on the way! Here are a few: The 2001 Baricci Brunello di Montalcino ($34.99) is full of the classic Montosoli nose, black cherry, cinnamon, anise cardamom and leather. The power of this vintage really shines through, and Sangiovese’s linear nature stretches the frame of this feminine wine to Amazonian proportions. The wine’s sophisticated temperament is inviting, and its supple feel relaxes you as it eases from the glass onto on your palate. Its focus, complexity, structure and finish stand out immediately while ripe layers of spicy black cherry and plum are deposited on your tongue. Vital, lithe, colorful, smooth all rolled into one, the 2001 is the best Baricci for me since the 1985. It must be something for your cellar. The 2001 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino ($34.99) has a warm, sweet ripeness that is full of intense plum and dark cherry aromatics that seem poised to jump out of the glass. The thick, lush, yet dazzlingly fresh fruit character is accented with hints of earth, spice and mineral that is wrapped around a powerful foundation. While profoundly concentrated, the silky nature of this wine sends waves of smooth, unctuous texture across your palate. Powerful, complex, drinkable and age-worthy, this luscious Brunello shows the great balance inherent in this 2001 vintage. It will age well for another decade plus. The 1999 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino ($59.99) is a truly stunning wine. Mike and I drank (no spitting here) a bottle with Vincenzo Abbruzzese the owner/winemaker over lunch in February side by side with the 98-point 2001. We finished both, and there isn’t much difference. Maybe the 2001 is a little bigger, but WOW both are absolutely sensational wines. You need to have this in your cellar! Trust me! —Greg St. Clair
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