It is truly wonderful to see more and more people using sommeliers in restaurants. A growing number of us are here to help guests find a great value wine on a wine list, not just the expensive stuff.
What I find is most people stick to what they know which is either a California Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley or an Australian Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Finding good value in these areas is often difficult as they are very popular and the price tends to reflect their popularity. But not many people know that not only are there fantastic ready to drink wines outside of these areas but the price is right too.
Case in point, when I was in South Beach last winter, I dined at Prime One Twelve Steakhouse on Ocean Drive. When I looked at the list, there were a lot of overpriced Cabernets, Brunellos and Shirazes so I asked the sommelier for assistance. When I introduced myself, I gave him the following information:
my price range
the characteristics that I liked in a wine
what I thought was drinking well
insights from what he had recently tasted
He gave me a 2 or 3 great options and I decided on the 2001 MacRostie Syrah, Wildcat Mountain Vineyard located in Sonoma, specifically the Carneros region. This was an amazing choice and was probably not something I would have chosen otherwise.
The next time you’re out for a meal, have fun and take the recommendation on a Rioja from Spain, or a Claret from Washington State or even a Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Don’t forget, the more information you can give us, the better the wine we can bring to your table.