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A conversation about Washington, DC's best wine list:

Bigg: "Proof!"

Johnson: "Plume!"

Bigg: "Proof!"

Johnson: "Plume!"

Bigg: "Proof!"

Johnson: "Plume!"

Joe: "Galileo!"

---

DonRocks: "Range."

Range Wine List.pdf

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Extra Bonus Points need to be awarded for crafting THIS list, and the pricing, in Montgomery County. That takes real commitment, from both a wine and business standpoint.

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Extra Bonus Points need to be awarded for crafting THIS list, and the pricing, in Montgomery County. That takes real commitment, from both a wine and business standpoint.

They're in DC - about 50 feet away from having a MUCH worse list

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Western Ave is the dividing line. So Range is in DC, and Indique Heights, which you can see out the window, is in MoCo.

The music references in the wine list are fantastic.

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Dave M weighed in on this in todays' WaPo Food Section:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/voltaggios-range-makes-its-wine-interesting-and-affordable/2013/03/11/28b86314-8615-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394_story.html

My eyes nearly fell out at the Horton Viognier price. It's about $14 a bottle at the AdMo HT and $22 at Range. Some of you with more "refined" wine tastes might turn your nose up at a white that is a sweet as that one is, but it is right in my wheelhouse. I plan on ordering a bottle just for myself, when and if I ever get to go there.

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There is a great bussola ca'del laito valpoicella ripasso there (I've ordered it twice) for about $36 which is roughly 11 dollars over retail (Calvert Woodley).

Mark Slater had sold me a bottle of this at retail back when he was at Ray's and it really is a great version that goes with a lot of the menu at Range...kudos to them for taking this approach.

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Dave M weighed in on this in todays' WaPo Food Section:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/voltaggios-range-makes-its-wine-interesting-and-affordable/2013/03/11/28b86314-8615-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394_story.html

My eyes nearly fell out at the Horton Viognier price. It's about $14 a bottle at the AdMo HT and $22 at Range. Some of you with more "refined" wine tastes might turn your nose up at a white that is a sweet as that one is, but it is right in my wheelhouse. I plan on ordering a bottle just for myself, when and if I ever get to go there.

Au contraire. Horton makes a viognier that I'd put up against any. Tremendously food friendly. I've always found the main challenge to be getting ones that haven't yet received a mailing from AARP.

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Pepiere Muscadet for $20? That's in halcyon-days-of-Corduroy-DR-HHs territory.

If I were home more than 6 days a month, I'd organize one. Those guys can make cocktails, too, y'know.

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I like this.......

Quote

Raising a glass to Axios' second anniversary ... A hot trend in restaurants: Smart Brevity for wine lists.

  • "Last year, for the first time, the annual World of Fine Wine restaurant wine list awards included a category of 'micro' lists," Bloomberg's Elin McCoy writes.
  • "They’re a worldwide phenomenon," says super-sommelier Rajat Parr, who recently designed a 75-item wine list for San Francisco’s just-opened Trailblazer Tavern, a Hawaiian comfort food haven.

"Micro lists are less intimidating and easier to navigate."

  • Master sommelier Matt Stamp of Napa’s Compline has a rule of thumb for what constitutes a "micro list": “It’s a list on one page, with type in a font I can read!"

And all the people said: Amen!

 

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7 hours ago, Count Bobulescu said:

I like this.......

I think the trend for "trophy wine lists" is ending due to the astronomical costs associated with them. Having managed both kind of wine lists, I can tell you that a well laid out micro list is much more consumer friendly. Not having to describe the differences between 15 different wines from the same place cuts down on the time at the table. To Jake, talking about halcyon days, when I worked at the Watergate in the mid 80's : 1979 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild $100, 1978 August Clape Cornas $18, 1983 Meursault-Charmes Hospice de Beaune $35. The good old days. 

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3 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

I think the trend for "trophy wine lists" is ending due to the astronomical costs associated with them. Having managed both kind of wine lists, I can tell you that a well laid out micro list is much more consumer friendly. Not having to describe the differences between 15 different wines from the same place cuts down on the time at the table. To Jake, talking about halcyon days, when I worked at the Watergate in the mid 80's : 1979 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild $100, 1978 August Clape Cornas $18, 1983 Meursault-Charmes Hospice de Beaune $35. The good old days. 

 
Agreed. While recognizing the attraction of margin wine offers, I've always found it somewhat incongruous that fine dining restaurants that typically limit menu choices to less than ten per course, go in the opposite direction with wine.

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1 hour ago, Count Bobulescu said:
 
Agreed. While recognizing the attraction of margin wine offers, I've always found it somewhat incongruous that fine dining restaurants that typically limit menu choices to less than ten per course, go in the opposite direction with wine.
 

2 Amys pioneered this in the DC area, and continues to have a wonderful wine list (albeit larger than it used to be).

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I love and truly despise microlists.

I know regions I like. I know producers I like. I know how to look for easter eggs on a wine list. But I also love a surprise.

Often.....microlists miss on all marks. What to do?

I'd much rather have a short discussion about what I have narrowed it down to than an expansive discussion about what I am clueless about the microlist presented before me.

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6 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

Often.....microlists miss on all marks. What to do?

I'd much rather have a short discussion about what I have narrowed it down to than an expansive discussion about what I am clueless about the microlist presented before me.

Thomas, do you have examples?

You are by no means clueless in terms of wine lists - micro-lists or otherwise - and you are able to dissect what's wrong with wine lists both large and small: Which wine lists are deficient in this town, right now, large or small? (Since this topic is centered on "small," your opinions on micro-lists would be quite valuable.)

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I agree with Mark. From a consumer stand point smaller but just as equally complete is easier to navigate. You don't have to choose between 10 different Napa Cabs, but let the wine director/ GM/ beverage geek make a wine list that has maybe 3-4 but different styles as Napa can offer that much like Oregon Pinot's , Central Coast Syrah's. Better yet grab 3-4 Syrah's globally and make that your statement. From an operator stand point smaller is easier to control. Which in turn you can change your list more frequently which I believe is attractive to your regulars. 

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Thanks, Josh. I understand Poolboy's point. My approach has always been that wine has one duty and that is to be delicious. A micro list in the hands of a novice or goofball is something to avoid. I don't believe in novelty for novelty's sake. A well chosen, well priced micro list can be fun to play with. One of my former employers insisted on a 20% beverage cost. That means selling a bottle of wine that costs $10 wholesale for $50, which I thought was obscene.  More than 3 times retail. Wrong approach. It takes the fun out of trying new wines. Especially if they are poorly chosen and expensive. A balanced, well chosen, well priced small list is the way to go these days. 

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15 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

I love and truly despise microlists.

I know regions I like. I know producers I like. I know how to look for easter eggs on a wine list. But I also love a surprise.

Often.....microlists miss on all marks. What to do?

I'd much rather have a short discussion about what I have narrowed it down to than an expansive discussion about what I am clueless about the microlist presented before me.

Point taken, but I suspect you are in a minority there, and a small one too.

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2 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

I don't believe in novelty for novelty's sake. A well chosen, well priced micro list can be fun to play with.

I like well planned micro-lists and really dislike the massive volumes at some places (I went to Bern's several years ago and, while there were some great finds, I would still be there if I didn't just pick something).  Mark's comment highlights the two big issues for me, though.

I don't want some trendier than thou wine list that has nothing to do with the food.  I don't care if the sommelier likes orange wines or can get Trousseau from the Jura or Arinto from the Azores if it does not go well with what is coming from the kitchen.

On the other hand, I don't want a list that just caters to the lowest common denominator.  Regardless of how popular they are or how well priced they may be on the list, I don't want to see Meiomi or Silver Oak Cab on a micro-list for an Italian restaurant.  A nice mix from various regions of Italy, some well known and some less so, is what I'm looking for.  (That  being said, I've got no problem with Pinot and Cab on big lists at Italian places that want to have something for everyone.) 

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15 minutes ago, jpbloom said:

I like well planned micro-lists and really dislike the massive volumes at some places (I went to Bern's several years ago and, while there were some great finds, I would still be there if I didn't just pick something).  Mark's comment highlights the two big issues for me, though.

I don't want some trendier than thou wine list that has nothing to do with the food.  I don't care if the sommelier likes orange wines or can get Trousseau from the Jura or Arinto from the Azores if it does not go well with what is coming from the kitchen.

On the other hand, I don't want a list that just caters to the lowest common denominator.  Regardless of how popular they are or how well priced they may be on the list, I don't want to see Meiomi or Silver Oak Cab on a micro-list for an Italian restaurant.  A nice mix from various regions of Italy, some well known and some less so, is what I'm looking for.  (That  being said, I've got no problem with Pinot and Cab on big lists at Italian places that want to have something for everyone.) 

I'm with you there, buddy. I will tell you from experience , though, that there is a large group of consumers who will drink Silver Oak with: oysters, dover sole, crab cakes and any other inappropriate pairing that you can think of.. 

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4 hours ago, Count Bobulescu said:

Point taken, but I suspect you are in a minority there, and a small one too.

Likely yes and possibly yes. But then, what exactly is the definition of a wine 'microlist'? Is it what you indicate (4-6 wine selections per menu item)? To me, a list of 100 wines is not a microlist. Is it an expansive or trophy wine list? No. I'd call is a small wine list. To me, a microlist is when you go to a place that has 20 to 40 choices and that's it. There are places I will go to that are in that situation (or close to it), but that I tolerate because I like the list and the choices. But in general, I find such super-short lists pretty limiting. 100 selection list should be acceptable for most - even if I'd prefer a more medium to large list personally.

4 hours ago, Count Bobulescu said:
I think 4-6 wine selections per menu item is more than adequate.
12 apps & 8 entres =100 wines. 6-10 of same BTG. 

 

16 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Thomas, do you have examples?

You are by no means clueless in terms of wine lists - micro-lists or otherwise - and you are able to dissect what's wrong with wine lists both large and small: Which wine lists are deficient in this town, right now, large or small? (Since this topic is centered on "small," your opinions on micro-lists would be quite valuable.)

I like lager lists it is true, because I like choices. But to Mark's point that a well chosen (and ideally well priced) shorter wine list that is interesting, pairs well with the food coming from the kitchen  and so on is a beautiful thing. But places have to remember people have different tastes and if you have an ultra-short list, it limits choices and things reasonably familiar to patrons of the restaurant.  I'd prefer to not go in examples of deficient lists for the time being, but one shorter list I like, generally speaking, is Macon Bistro's. It's not perfect, and it is arguably not so reasonably priced at times, but it is of a size that provides to my palate and preferences enough choices. Others might disagree since it tends to be French-heavy, but with wine as always preferences differ and your mileage may vary.

5 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

Thanks, Josh. I understand Poolboy's point. My approach has always been that wine has one duty and that is to be delicious. A micro list in the hands of a novice or goofball is something to avoid. I don't believe in novelty for novelty's sake. A well chosen, well priced micro list can be fun to play with. One of my former employers insisted on a 20% beverage cost. That means selling a bottle of wine that costs $10 wholesale for $50, which I thought was obscene.  More than 3 times retail. Wrong approach. It takes the fun out of trying new wines. Especially if they are poorly chosen and expensive. A balanced, well chosen, well priced small list is the way to go these days. 

Totally agree on bolded section #1. Ditto for the second bolded section. And the second part is the one that drives me nuts when you are dining at a place that you have never dined before (or even infrequently) - you have no idea sometimes what's on the wine list and they present you their possibly quite short list and you are left wanting. Tome, wine is a requirement when dining out. To be left wanting on a wine list is a disappointment that can really detract from the experience for me.

3 hours ago, jpbloom said:

I like well planned micro-lists and really dislike the massive volumes at some places (I went to Bern's several years ago and, while there were some great finds, I would still be there if I didn't just pick something).  Mark's comment highlights the two big issues for me, though.

I don't want some trendier than thou wine list that has nothing to do with the food.  I don't care if the sommelier likes orange wines or can get Trousseau from the Jura or Arinto from the Azores if it does not go well with what is coming from the kitchen.

On the other hand, I don't want a list that just caters to the lowest common denominator.  Regardless of how popular they are or how well priced they may be on the list, I don't want to see Meiomi or Silver Oak Cab on a micro-list for an Italian restaurant.  A nice mix from various regions of Italy, some well known and some less so, is what I'm looking for.  (That  being said, I've got no problem with Pinot and Cab on big lists at Italian places that want to have something for everyone.) 

Totally agree!

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@PB  

Not sure if there is any precise definition of microlist. We could probably debate that for a few years.......
When I said 4-6 per menu item I wasn't applying that to micros, but to lists more generally.
 
The 75 item Trailblazer list referenced in the piece I posted doesn't really cut it as "micro" in my book. That menu has 25 items and 75 wines, so in one sense it kinda does cut it, 3 wines per menu item, but if I were the ruler of all wine lists I'd say 50 max, 35 better, to qualify for micro. You can cover a lot of ground with 15-20 grape varietals and 2-3 price points each.
 
 I think diners generally, and American diners in particular, are much less interested in who makes the wine, and where does it come from, than will I like it, and is it reasonable value. 

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6 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

I'm with you there, buddy. I will tell you from experience , though, that there is a large group of consumers who will drink Silver Oak with: oysters, dover sole, crab cakes and any other inappropriate pairing that you can think of.. 

Every time a somm recommends Silver Oak Cab to me with seafood, I always insist on getting it in white.

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