Points of Discussion in April 30th, 2018, Wine Tasting with Restaurants

How do we develop the vocabulary to talk about our wine’s flavor and character? The language of California or of the Old World wine regions may not be right for what Vermont needs - especially when we’re talking with folks who have a very broad range of experience in wine tasting, including trying to reach diners who are interested in local beverages more than they’re looking for wine in particular.

A different variation on this question is - how do we tell the stories behind Vermont wine? The craft, farming, people, place behind it. Distributors are not the folks who are going to do that well, it’s the winemakers getting out to restaurants and restaurants communicating the story to customers.

Customers want a wine that lasts through the meal, and sometimes they’re sharing a bottle, so it’s not like a pairing dinner where each glass goes with a particular dish - the wine needs to pair well with food and be versatile.

Balanced acidity is important for a wine that’s versatile with food. Some of the VT wines with sweeter character could be paired with certain foods, but most restaurants can’t be that specific (vs. someone who is buying a bottle of wine to use at home with a very particular dish they’re making).

Many of the VT reds are too dark or too strong to not overpower the food - even if they are enjoyable on their own. As with the acidity level above, what you might enjoy at home or with a very specific dish / in a very specific context isn’t the same as what will work on a menu. Our Marquettes can hold their own against any grape in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re all well suited to restaurant menus.

Unique wines are good, but very in your face ones aren’t necessarily desirable - you can be subtle and unique.

Again, unique wines are good. . . but very inconsistent wine is a bummer.  The variability of natural wines can be a problem - variability both in quality and in character. Restaurants do not like discovering after the fact that they’ve sold a bad bottle. Or that the server has spun a beautiful tale about a wine’s character only to open the bottle and find that it’s nothing like the last bottle they tasted.

Rose is getting easier to sell, some is quite popular, and the color can be more subtle than was acceptable to American drinkers in the past.

Price remains a serious issue for selling Vermont wines. Some things people have tried:

Quality was a serious hurdle in the past, but we’re coming away from that now. A few quality-related considerations:

Restaurant participants reported discovering new wines (that they like), learning new things about Vermont wine. As noted previously, personally enjoying a wine is not the same as thinking it’s good for the restaurant - but it does help that evolving story of Vermont wine and reinforces quality component.

Participating Restaurants:

Nathaniel Dall - The Essex

Mike Dunn - Misery Loves Company

Kaliche Hennessey - The Essex

Alex Moran - Farmhouse Tap & Grill / Guild / Pascolo / El Cortijo

Doug Paine - Hotel VT / Bleu

Bob Lesnikoski - Bobbers (seafood truck)

Meghan Sheridan - VFN (did the original restaurant research for wine grant)

Lyndon Virkler - New England Culinary Institute

Participating Wineries:

Boyden Valley Winery
Boyer's Orchard
Fresh Tracks Winery
Lincoln Peak Vineyard
Maquam Wine
Montpelier Vineyards
Shelburne Vineyard
Snowfarm Winery

This project was made possible by a grant from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. For information on all the activities as part of this grant please visit: vermontfresh.net/programs/vermont-wine-project/