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New wines at Red Cow (and what goes into a wine list selection)

My little business is a four legged stool.

What most of you know me for are my public wine classes (and huge thanks to all that attend!). The second part of my business consists of private events for individuals and corporations. The third part is about coaching and training the sales staff at wholesalers and wineries to learn modern techniques for wine selling. The fourth part, the one this email is about, is the independent wine consulting I do for local restaurants and retailers.

One of my contracts is as the Wine Director for Luke Shimp’s restaurants Red Cow and Red Rabbit. It’s a wine program and staff I’m incredibly proud of, and one I like to think is shaping parts of our local wine scene toward affordability and originality. At Red Rabbit they do over forty wines by the glass, at Red Cow thirty. All wines are served with precision and attention to detail: Riedel stemware and correct temperature are paramount. On top of that I do many wine education training sessions with the staff to make sure they are up to speed on vino (at least half a dozen per month, often more). Overall, it’s an awesome program.

With thirty wines by the glass we can’t (and shouldn’t) change them all out at once, or even a majority of them. With every wine list change (which happens 3-4 times a year) I aim for 7-10 wines to swap out, the goal being a jolt of fresh energy and attention and not attached to simply sales numbers. For instance, on this list we’re changing our Cabernet by the glass, even though the one leaving was one of the most popular wines on the list. Mix things up a bit, but not too much. Fresh energy!

Here’s a quick overview for you of what is new at Red Cow starting today

THE NEW CHEAP AND CHEERFUL — wines that are fun, affordable, and “drinky” (an official wine term at Red Cow)

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Terre di Marca Prosecco, $9 a glass ($7 at Happy Hour)

Terre di Marca has been the go-to Prosecco at Red Rabbit since opening, and is a phenomenal addition to the Red Cow lists. Organically and biodynamically farmed, family owned and operated, super cool squat bottle, and everything Prosecco should be: light, frothy, clean, airy, and a touch sweet.

Flying Solo White, $7 a glass ($5 at Happy Hour)
Margarett’s Vineyard Merlot, $9 a glass ($7 at Happy Hour)

Both of these wines represent a category I call “golden retriever wines.” They simply give endless tons of soft and unconditional and uncomplicated love. These are for when customers come in just for a glass of wine and may or may not want food. Or a customer specifically asks for a softer wine, for they don’t like higher acid selections (which I’m predisposed toward myself). Flying Solo White is a majority Grenache Blanc, with some Viognier added, and is delicious in its apple and pear fruits. The Margarett’s Vineyard Merlot is juicy, soft, approachable, and what awesome Merlot should be.

As I type this I’m having the Flying Solo White with the Farro Salad (a special this month) and it’s a great combo.

THE NEW “THINKING DRINKERS” WHITE WINES

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Domaine du Tariquet “Classique”, $7 a glass ($5 at Happy Hour)

With this wine list change I’m focusing heavy on value, which is of course not just price but overall quality and bang for the buck. This wine is a perfect example of the type of wine I seek out: relatively unknown, easy to explain (“It’s a Sauvignon Blanc substitute!”) and amazingly affordable ($7 a glass regularly, $5 a glass at happy hour). Made primarily from Ugni Blanc and Columbard, it’s sharp, crisp, citric, dry, lively, and zippy. A no brainer.

HD “High Def” Riesling, Mosel Valley, $8 a glass ($6 at Happy Hour)

Here’s a good example of how a wine list evolves. Riesling is a very important category to have represented on the wine list, for some customers ask quickly for a sweet wine or see a Riesling on the list and order it right away (with expectations of how it will taste). We had a Riesling on the list for a bit from Selbach, and honestly it was one of the best Rieslings I’ve ever had for the money. Detailed, gorgeous, balanced, and perfect in every way except for one thing: it just wasn’t sweet enough for Red Cow customers that say “I’d like a sweet wine.” So based on customer and server feedback I took the Selbach off and added the HD Riesling, which is phenomenal and right on point stylistically. Note to my fellow sommelier friends: Selbach Incline is at The Wine Company and it would be awesome for places of the caliber of Spoon and Stable, Alma, Tilia, Corner Table, and others. Seek it out!

Longridge Chenin Blanc, South Africa, $11 a glass ($9 at Happy Hour)

Chenin Blanc is an awesome variety but a pain in the ass to grow and make. It’s fussy in the vineyard and fussy in the winery, so finding great by the glass Chenin can be difficult. This is one of the best we’ve ever had regardless of the price. Peach and apple with rich ripe fruit aromas but firm acids at the same time. A fantastic lemon streak throughout, but still with ripeness and weight. Great balance all around. From South Africa, made by Jasper Ratts whom some of you met at the South Africa wine class in early July.

THE NEW REDS: a bistro blend and a big Cabernet

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Les Clos red blend, $8 a glass ($6 at Happy Hour)

I’m super excited about this addition to the Red Cow Red Blends category (which is going great, with the Red Blends flight being one of the most popular). Merlot based, but with some Carignane, Cabernet, and Grenache to add structure and foundation, it’s a super young, fresh, lively, and energetic red wine similar to what many Europeans drink endlessly at wine bars and cafes. Wines like this are poured in Paris everywhere. They are not complex or deep, but simply have grippy flavor that can pair easily with anything (especially a burger). From Languedoc, which is just west of the Cotes du Rhone (southern Rhone near the sea).

Penfolds Bin 9 “Max’s Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, $9 a glass ($7 at Happy Hour)

Many of you attended the DLynn Proctor (from the movie SOMM) events that Twin Cities Wine Education organized in June. Hearing the story of Penfolds through the incredible personality of DLynn was a highlight of the year for me. My respect for Penfolds went through the roof, and as a result we focused on them for our new Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass (obviously a top spot on the wine list). Here’s the truth about most Cabernet (and Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, and Pinot Grigio) by the glass: because it’s such an easy sell many restaurants put wines in this slot that make the largest margin with the attitude “people will buy it no matter what, so let’s not worry about the quality.” I go the other direction. Knowing we will make it up in volume, I sacrifice the margin to deliver HUGE bang for the buck for the consumer. And it works. I’m incredibly proud of the wines we pour in the most popular categories, for they consistently over deliver. This Bin 9 Cabernet might be the best $9 glass of Cabernet I’ve ever had the pleasure of offering.

I hope you have a chance to swing through Red Cow and try some of these wines. The current list will go through about October or November, at which time we’ll swap out another half dozen to dozen wines. Fresh energy is always the goal.

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