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World's Best-Priced Wine Lists


Brad Ballinger
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Nice idea. Let me suggest a companion thread. Wine lists that attractively priced..

St. Paul, MN -- Heartland. Marcel Juge Cornas $52 (retail $40, if you can find it).

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I think most of the time, a great wine list buy is a mistake on the part of the restaurant part. A few years back I went to a restaurant in Little Italy, Baltimore that had '97 Caymus Napa Cab for $28 a bottle.

Last year, I saw a bottle of 1997 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow at a restaurant called Bilbo Baggins in Alexandria, VA for $100.

No other wines on either list were similarly priced.

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Plumpjack in San Francisco keeps their wine list close to retail. I just took a look at the website, no prices listed, but we have tried some great wines there.

Watching it closely - one of the owners was just elected mayor of San Francisco and has sold his investment. Hopefully nothing will change.

When PlumpJack Cafe opened in 1994, our wine pricing policy immediately made news, as we became the only top restaurant in San Francisco to sell wine at retail prices. Today, value continues to be a cornerstone of the PlumpJack wine program. Our selection of hard-to-find Californian wines, extensive wines by the glass program and collectible greats from Europe and the rest of the New World have garnered critical acclaim and a loyal following.

Wine list is here.

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  • 3 months later...

I think it's high time we celebrated restaurants throughout the world that have gone the extra mile to bring fine wines to their customers at everyday, affordable prices instead of at 300% (or more) markups.

I'd like to begin by nominating the new restaurant Landmarc in New York City. The list at Landmarc is overall the best-priced wine list I've ever seen in New York, and maybe in the United States. Especially interesting is the restaurant's half-bottle list, but there are also great bargains on full bottles. Here are some examples from the list:

HALF BOTTLES

champagne:

laurent-perrier / 14

pol roger / 18

white wine:

sancerre, pascal jolivet 2003 / 12

pinot blanc, cuvée les amours, hugel 2001 / 10

red wine:

shiraz, the laughing magpie, d’arenberg 2002 (mclaren vale) / 18

rioja crianza, el coto 2000 / 9

zinfandel, ridge geyserville 2001 (sonoma) / 18

quintessa 2000 (rutherford, napa) / 48

pinot noir, jed steele 2002 (carneros) / 12

FULL BOTTLES

conundrum, caymus vineyards 2001 / 29

pauillac, château lynch bages 1999 / 59

puligny montrachet, premier cru les folatiéres, olivier leflaive 2000 / 75

pinot noir, premiere cuvée, archery summit 2001 (willamette valley) / 45

rubicon, niebaum-coppola (napa) 2000 / 105

Can you beat that?

Discussion of Landmarc in the NY forum here.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There's a restaurant here in Philadelphia called Friday, Saturday, Sunday that sells every bottle on their list for $10 above cost :shock:. It's a great policy but I can't imagine how they're making enough revenue from that to pay the bills. I guess that they make up for it in alcohol, beer, glass wine and food sales. :hmmm:

The wine list can be viewed HERE

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Hey that's a great nomination!

Let me also throw in for consideration the $20 wine list at Becco here in New York. There are $20 lists at Lidia's Kansas City and Pittsburgh locations as well.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There's a restaurant here in Toronto called Mammina's. It's a little, neighbourhood Italian place downtown. Their markup is $5 over LCBO price. Now, I'm all for fair wine list prices, but there's no way that can cover their costs. They only keep about 15 labels on the list, all Italian, but it's excellent value.

The food is uncomplicated and good too. I can go in there and get a nice veal dish, or some risotto, or pasta (which I almost never order while out), and a nice bottle of wine for a song.

Their vintages are quite young, naturally, because of the turnover they keep, but they have a couple bottles of Amarone, Barolo, and Brunello, in addition to Chianti and good value whites.

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Last weekend, I was in the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis and met some friends at the Loring Pasta Bar. They did not have an enormous list, and I am at a loss to remember specifics, but a vast majority of the wines were in the $20 to $30 range per bottle, with a pretty low markup. In fact, one of the most expensive wines on the list was a 2001 Loring Wine Company (no relation to the Loring Pasta Bar) Pinot Noir (the Clos Pepe, I think?) for $55. If I recall, this wine was $40 a bottle on the mailing list from the winery.

Jean

Edited by Jean Brislance (log)
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The Washington Inn in Cape May, New Jersey get props from me for a nice list and nice prices.

Been a year since I was up there, but I remember an interesting and extensive list representing all major areas with a quite a few interesting selections. We had (among other things) a '97 Lokoya Howell Mtn. cab for $139. I'm lucky to see it going for that at retail down here in DC.

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We went to a place in LA called Balboa that has their entire list half-priced on Sundays. The food is sort of mediocre, steak-house style, but you can have some pretty nice wines for a good price.

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One of my favourite restaurants, its wine list being not a small factor in the equation, lies in the quiet heart of the Kaiserstuhl. I think they have been serving their refined french-cum-local cuisine for well over 50 years and that time shows in the depth of the winecellar. To quote a friend, ardent wine-lover from Luxembourg: "If I lived any closer, I wouldn't be having a winecellar of my own!'

Some examples of wines I have enjoyed there recently:

Leroy Clos Vougeot 1989 - 60 E

Clos de Ducs 1989 - 55 E

Clos de Ducs 1986 Magnum - 110 E

Roumier Les Amoureuses 1989 - 50 E

Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet 1990 - 90 E

Beaucastel VV 1989 - 50 E

Rousseau Clos de la Roche 1974 - 60 E

Heyl zu Herrnsheim Brudersberg BA 1976 - 90 E (0.75)

Bonneau du Matray Corton-Charly 1992 - 70 E

I could go on and on and, as you can see, I haven't even delved into the Bordeaux section which is huge and equally priced. Most of the prices break down to the original prices ex cave, not inflation adjusted...

Enjoy!

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To both Katie L and Mark S:

Katie:

Having run a restaurant in Philadelphia many years ago, the oddity there was the state ABC monopoly. The restaurant only got a 1/6 (16+%) discount off the public's single-bottle retail price (AND you got to drive to their warehouse and pick it up yourself...), so a few entrepreneurs took the position that since you couldn't make any money on it anyway, you might as well turn it into a publicity stunt. That was the mid-70's, and a guy who later became a west-coast celebrity chef was running a $1-over-retail winelist at the Chesnut Hill Hotel.

Mark:

You are, of course, right. Restaurants don't sell wine, liquor and wine stores sell wine. Restaurants sell a compound experience which includes a decor, big rent, a kitchen that costs maybe a quarter-million to fit out, some sort of wine storage system, service staff, glassware, linens, computers, a dishwasher, etc. While the entrepreneur is free to pursue suicidal publicity however he or she wishes, any winelist price under 2x retail is a loss leader, and the loss has to be slipped to the customer under another guise.

That said, I'm a big advocate of linear-formula pricing, which for non-trade folks is a technical term for sticking it to the cheapskate. The math is m*x+b (this is a twenty-year-old concept, and your favorite local haunt may have been using it for that long), but the net effect is that instead of triple cost on everything which would lead you to $10 for Sutter Home WZ and $60 for Acacia PN, you wind up at $14 for the WZ (not enough!) and $37 for the Acacia. The entrepreneur agrees to take progressively less percent markup as you move up the food chain, but he encourages the customer to move up and be adventuresome with the good stuff. Instead of just being a loss leader, it actually pays the rent by giving the knowledgeable patron a break.

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Customer: Your wines are expensive

Me: I could give them to you for half price if I could serve it to you on a bare table in a paper cup.

Its all about context.

And sometimes, context is worth paying for.

But it's still nice not to have to.

Bruce

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Yo, Bruiser,

Soooooooooo, you're thinkin maybe:

"2+2=4, for just about everybody but me."

"Myself, I like to show up just at about the time when a production fielded by a hard-working young entrepreneur is entering its dying throes. At those times, I find that sometimes, just before the funeral, 2+2=3. Then, I go look for another funeral. It's a way of changing the usual inevitability of math-like things"

Something along those lines?

Or, you meant that you'd rather get takeout from the entrepreneur, go to the wine shop, get just what you want and some paper cups, and take it out on a "piquenique"? This time of year, that's not such a bad idea.

PW

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