In today's NY Times, Frank Bruni wrote about sommelier Paul Grieco's interesting wine proposition for this summer: The Summer of Riesling. In short, Paul decided that he would change the wine menu at Terroir, in NYC, to only include Rieslings in the wine by the glass selections. If you want a Chardonnay: buy a bottle. If you want a Merlot: buy a bottle. Paul's goal with this endeavor is to educate the public about the differences and nuances of the noble Riesling. Many people believe that all Riesling is sweet uncomplicated wine. While Riesling is responsible for much lackluster sweet fermented juice, it is also responsible for some of the world's most highly prized and expensive sweet wines. Surprisingly to some, but not all, Riesling can also be a esoteric dry wine. The sugar, acidity, and aromatics of Riesling allow this single grape variety to be made into a plethora of styles! Germany, France, New York, and even Colorado produce wines along this spectrum that are sure to find a place within your palate; so give a Riesling a try.
Back to the original impetus for this post! Paul Grieco was bold enough to force patrons at his restaurant to buy only a particular wine by the glass. So many restaurants and retail stores do the exact opposite. They buy the brands that the distributors want them to buy and then turn around and sell these, often, dull wines to the public. In the wine industry, it is often said that regional (in the US this means wines NOT from California, Oregon, Washington and those on the east coast, New York) wines are difficult to sell because either the quality is low or the public has no demand for wines from terra igncognita. However, examples can be found all across this country that shoot holes in this argument. Just last week, I was dining with Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon, at Jonesy's Eatbar in Denver and we discussed the idea of "locavore" restaurants not serving local wines. As both Jeff and I have posted, Jonesy's serves, almost exclusively, Colorado microbrews. While Colorado Wines are not a majority on the wine list, they are present in more than just token numbers.
What if a restaurant put Paul Grieco's and Jonesy's ideas together and took it a step further? Could a restaurant flourish by only serving Colorado Wines on its wine list? Could a happy middle be reached with only CO wines available by the glass? Would patrons stop dining if they couldn't find their favorite bottle of Clos du Bois hiding amongst a bunch of Argentinian, Australian and Spanish wines that are nothing but international? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy wines from all over the world (Spanish wines would have to be at or near the top of my list). Are local wines hard to sell because restaurants and retailers don't actually TRY to sell them? I think that if a restaurant that prides itself on using as many local ingredients and foods as possible took the initiative to devote itself to this idea it would work, and work well, with CO wines. Afterall, wine is and should be thought of as a food.