Sommeliers, chefs and wine-maker attendees representing more than 20 restaurants from New York, Chicago and the Bay Area with 35 Michelin stars between them, gathered in Napa Valley for three days of professional development and education. Known of course for pioneering the California wine-industry, Napa has since become a premiere destination for high-end dining, making the iconic wine setting an ideal location to convene the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Napa Valley Summit. The first ever partnership between the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a 525 winery member association founded in 1944 and the famed MICHELIN Guide, that rates the worlds greatest restaurants with their quintessential 3-star system, brought together food and wine luminaries to discuss the industries’ challenges and opportunities for better collaboration.
The multi-day professional development seminar included notable excursions out of class, including a “Stars of Napa Valley” welcome dinner prepared by Chef Thomas Keller of Michelin three star restaurant The French Laundry; wine and food pairing exercises led by Chef Ken Frank of La Toque Restaurant and a “down and dirty” harvest session of picking and delivering grapes to the crushpad. The keynote forum for MICHELIN Guide participants of Sommeliers and Chefs, hosted by BinWise, pondered the question:
What are the challenges of running a successful beverage program in today’s environment, and how does one address these challenges to ensure success?
In a forum moderated by BinWise President & CEO Isabelle Hong and Director of Client Relations and Co-founder, Tony Cha, and led by a panel of eminent sommeliers Bobby Conroy of In Situ, Mauro Cirilli of Press Club, and Michael Ireland of High Treason, the attendees discussed several topics including how to keep a wine program fresh, leveraging and managing vendor relationships, control measures, wine-pricing, the thorny issue of corkage, and dealing with technology shifts on the restaurant floor. “While the programs represented were vastly different, many of the challenges they faced and how they tackled them were very much the same in spirit,” said Hong.
“It was an unusual convocation of sommeliers–where the topic at hand wasn’t wine, but the issues of how to manage it and the challenges it presents,” commented Cha. In addition to sharing best practices on the science behind the art of running a successful beverage program, attendees also discussed technology trends such as how best to integrate a Coravin into a by the glass program. Unquestionably, the Coravin has changed how restaurants sell premium bottles of wine, allowing sommeliers the ability to sell rare cellar bottles without the concomitant worry of spoilage. However while Coravin exceeds in solving the technical problem of spoilage, it introduces new challenges to service, given that it combines the high-wire act of seamlessly presenting a high-end product while managing the practicalities of a what can be an awkward pour from a device that might run out of gas at an inopportune moment. Recomendation? Pour into a small decanter then present the decanter and bottle to customer at table.
The summit was an outstanding forum for the collaboration and sharing amongst Napa vintners, sommeliers, and chefs of MICHELIN Guide restaurant partners. BinWise is honored to be able to participate in the inaugural event where everybody, including our panelists Bobby, Mauro, and Michael learned something new from their peers.
Next week: Insights and Interesting Results of Industry Survey.
BinWise – supporting your art through our science