Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Capital Grille's Generous Pour

A few weeks ago, I attended a preview event for Capital Grille's The Generous Pour (TGP) event at the Denver location. The premise of the 7-week event (July 7 - August 31) is that the restaurant chain is offering guests unlimited pours of seven different wines or $25 per person. Sounds like a good deal. The restaurant's website states that the selection includes "five highly acclaimed wines, two exclusive premieres, and all seven hand selected by our Master Sommelier." Diners can buy just one bottle or sample all seven through the course of a meal. The premise sounded interesting, so I made plans to attend to see what it was all about.

When I responded to the invitation, I inquired into the identity of the Master Sommelier that would be leading the tasting. I was a bit perplexed when the PR representative replied that she did not know the identity of the moderator, but that "[a] Kendall Jackson Master Sommelier will be present."

It turns out that TGP is collaboration between Jackson Family Wines and Capital Grille. This is the second year the two have worked together on this campaign. Capital Grille's resident Master Sommelier, George Miliotes, was the person who selected the wines and JFW's newest Master Sommelier, Michael Jordan, was the moderator for the evening reception in Denver. The event was a simple cocktail reception with appetizers and wines floating around the room. I was the first person to arrive and chatted with Jordan a bit about working for JFW and about a few of the wines. If you're curious, the selection being offered during the promotion is: Carmel Road “Liberated,” Monterey, 2012 Riesling; Atalon, Napa Valley, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc; Byron, Santa Barbara, 2012 Chardonnay; La Crema, Willamette Valley, 2012 Pinot Noir; Freemark Abbey, Napa Valley, 2011 Merlot; Arrowood “Catchwire,” Sonoma, 2011 Bordeaux Blend; and Kendall-Jackson “Winemaker Selection,” Sonoma, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

To be honest, none of the wines impressed me all that much. My favorite of the bunch was the Arrowood "Catchwire." I'd be interested to try it again when I can taste it and give it more careful consideration. It was very restrained and reflected the cool vintage without showing any unripe characteristics. Everything else was just rather ho-hum. Nothing was bad and other guests seemed to be enjoying the wines quite well. I like to be excited and intrigued with what's in my glass and I really wasn't. But, I guess that is to be expected when you're looking at <$25 bottles of wine on a restaurant list. For that price, I suppose I would say that this event offers a decent value, but you have to consider that if you are going on a date, TGP amounts to spending $50 on wine not just $25. It might make sense if you were each planning on drinking several glasses of different wines throughout a meal. Where it might make more sense is for a small group that wanted to try a variety of wines without having to think about what to order. Now, this doesn't apply to most wine aficionados, but I am pretty sure Capital Grille isn't high on the list of that type of wine consumer.

Another thing that probably won't matter to the intended audience, but sparked my curiosity was how the wines were selected and why no mention of the JFW appears any where on the Capital Grille website. To me, it seems almost disingenuous to not advertise that all of the wines are owned by Jackson Family Wines. If they are not trying to hide that fact, then why not include it. I know a lot of people would be quite impressed with the allure of drinking unlimited KJ for only $25. The Kendall-Jackson empire makes some nice wines and they should use that name recognition to the best of their ability.

I inquired about how the wines were selected at the reception and my question was passed on. Miliotes responded a few days later via email saying, "we go through a rigorous process with several (some years up to 10) companies who put in proposals to us for TGP. We evaluate the proposals then taste and speak with those who’s proposals we think are interesting. KJ given their excellence in making wine and depth of portfolio is always interesting to us." Fair enough, but given that this is only the second year of its existence I wonder what the other proposals looked like.

I also realize that as a national chain, Capital Grille wants to keep everything as simple and uniform as possible. To do this event on a national scale, JFW makes a lot of sense. Partnering with a distributor would also make sense. I wish that something along the lines of TGP were offered for regional wines or wines that could actually use the extra promotion. It might take more effort, but consumers would benefit more. I think promotions, such as this one, would be more exciting if specific regional associations were to assist. Just think if the Santa Barbara Vintners or Virginia Wine Board were to partner with Capital Grille. Or what if each Capital Grille location were to promote the local wines of the area with the assistance of Wine America?

Overall, I think that the event will be of interest to the general public, and isn't that the most important thing? A couple that may only try a single glass of wine at dinner might be swayed to pay a few extra dollars to try seven. Maybe they had never tasted Sonoma cabernet sauvignon before and will be turned on to it. I think anything that involves Americans expanding their palates to more wine is a good thing. And though I doubt I'll find myself indulging in The Generous Pour, I suggest that if any of those seven wines listed above sound interesting, go ahead and make a reservation. Just be sure if you fully take advantage of the limitless pours, please don't drink and drive.

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