Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Thursday, September 3, 2009 / 9:11 AM

What You Didn't Read About Wine


The above is the opening spread for "What We Talk About When We Talk About Wine," a six-page feature I wrote for the new September 2009 issue. (Read it? Share some feedback, here or in the comments.) As with most magazine articles, the final content represents just a portion of the quotes, facts, and anecdotes rounded up during the weeks of reporting. Filing away all my notes and transcripts this morning, I thought I'd post a dozen or so quotes that didn't make it in, but that still might interest some readers. Cheers. -- Stephen Schenkenberg

Tony Bommarito, on a food-and-wine pairing:
"Chianti's great with a hamburger -- but people automatically think of Zinfandel." 

Robust's Stanley Browne, on something he wished would catch on here:
"Missouri still struggles with drinking quality German Rieslings. It's a category that's often overlooked. On both coasts, there's more of an appreciation." 

Most everyone, on the worst kind of wine enclosure: 
Synthetic cork.

STLwinegirl Angela Ortmann, on food-and-wine pairing and cooking: 
"If you're cooking a pasta, or if you have a barbecue sauce, go ahead and splash that wine in as you're cooking up the sauces, as it helps meld the two together." 

The Wine Merchant co-founder John Nash, on his sales trends: 
"The fastest-growing segment of our business is the cheese. It's really exciting growth."

Riddles founder Andy Ayers, on how the St. Louis wine scene has grown or changed in recent years:
"I actually introduced the concept of premium, cork-finished wine by the glass to St. Louis in the early 1980's. Riddle's Penultimate was the first establishment in town to include the phrase 'wine bar' in its name or its concept. I had the first of the new-fangled nitrogen wine dispensing machines in regular use here in a River City bar or restaurant.

"I'm better qualified to describe the way the scene has changed over the last 25 years than in the last two. The custom then was for 'fine dining' restaurants to offer a short list of bottled wines and a far broader group to sell jug wine by the glass and by the liter or half-liter. When I first began selling good wine by the glass from 750 ml. bottles, I actually poured a whole bottle into a carafe and then opened another bottle to top it off for a full liter.  

"We switched our glass marketing over to 'quarter bottles' precisely because people thought of a glass of wine as a very small amount while a bottle was a huge reservoir that would last the entire meal. When I proposed a good Chardonnay at $4.95 a glass, why, people were aghast! A glass of wine (from the jug) should cost $1.25! Even to a person whom I knew would spend $20 for a good bottle, $5 a glass was preposterous. About the 100th time I found myself explaining that our glass 'is a quarter of the bottle' I gave up and bought 1/4 bottle carafes to portion the wine and serve along with an empty glass. That worked. It was kinda like the old malt shop that served a big glass tumbler and the stainless steel mixing cup full of malted milk.

Chaumette staffer and wine educator Jennifer Johnson, on her advice for newbies:  
"I wish more people who are starting to enjoy wine understood that tasting is an enjoyment like anything else -- it takes work. Like learning to play golf. The more you do it, the more you'll enjoy it. Don't feel the intimidation behind the wine -- what you smell -- don't worry about that. With every new wine you taste, you'll enjoy it that much more in the future. And if a wine expert tells you, 'You either taste the profile or not,' they're full of shit."

Pinnacle Imports owner Bill Kniep, on restaurant wine programs: 
"The single most important profit center in most restaurants is the wine, beer, and spirits. Food goes bad. Restaurants that make it tend to make it on their wine programs. There's still a great deal of that under-the-table, 'We'll give you a fancy leather book' [offer] from the industrial distributors -- and the restaurants that take that route often fail. ...Nearly every successful independent restaurant has a great wine program."  

Longtime wine industry worker Daryll Vennard's phrase for the overly cute (and often mediocre) bottles we've seen more of in recent years:
"Monkey-on-the-motorcycle wines."

Major Brands corporate wine educator Mike Ward, on a national trend (even small-scale) that hasn't yet hit St. Louis: 
"Premium boxed wines."

Eclipse general manager Chad George, on the same: 
"The availability of really good sherries."

Annie Gunn's Glenn Bardgett on the growth of Missouri wineries:  
"Virtually every winery is making money and selling out their product every year."

Lukas Liquor manager Gary Bilder, on a drinking-related trend he's seeing:
"Sleepovers. With breakfast the next day."

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