Starting a small Tavern in rural Northern California. Barley and Hops Tavern catalogs the trials and tribulations of the restaurant biz, and teaching wine country to love beer.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Draft Wine

So we're in the middle of Wine Country, I'm told. As beer aficionados, we are wont to forget that Sonoma County is the pinnacle of wine grape producing land. Though beverages composed of barley, hops, yeast, and water are more awesomely delicious than those not, wine is still good.

This abundance of great wine-producing land has lead to a bevy of boutique wineries dotting the county like dots on a dotted dot-to-dot. A sort of upscale ambulance chasing; each of these wineries visit newly opened restaurants (or those recently the target of excellent press). A typical conversation:

Me: "Barley and Hops Tavern, this is Noah" "Hello, this is Egbert Schnoodlbakker with Schnoodlbakker wines; may I speak to the individual in charge of purchasing wines"

Me: "That would be me, I'm Noah, the owner, but we're a bit busy, because it's ..."

Them: "When would be a good time to bring you a sample of our excellent Schnoodlbakker wines, I'm SURE you've heard of us..."

Me: "Well, we're a Tavern; squarely focused on beer, you know we have over 50 ..."

Them: "Our wine is the best selling ..."

Me: "I'm sure it's lovely, like a fresh slice of honeydew melon on a hot Autumn's eve, however, I don't have a lot of wine business, as I said, we're a tavern who .."

Them: "If you sold OUR wine, why, your customer base would quad-tupple!"

Me: "Really? Because most of the people ask for 'house red' or 'house white', or want something local, which I already have. I bring in Boheme, which..."

Them: "Yes, yes, but Schnoodlbakker Summer Reisling-Guwertzraminer-Merlot blend pairs perfectly with... what sort of food do you serve"

Me: "Pub grub, fish and ch..."

Them: "It pairs better with fish than any other wine!"

Me: "What's it cost?"

Them: "Well, we can discuss case prices after we come over and sample you on Schnoodlbakker's ENTIRE line of wines... when did you say we can meet"

... inevitably, we meet, the wine is good, but I don't have a spot for it, because, you know, I'm a tavern. I wonder if Breweries hound wine bars that they could dramatically increase their beer business if only they carried Russian Imperial IPA from Blazing Porcupine brewery out of Pennsyltucky, New Hampster, which has the best hop-growing soil dontcha know, wouldn't that be great!? I'll bring by a sample of our entire line, and bring my friend who has a tire business and really, I mean, if you want the best treadwear ratings, you NEED these tires, you could increase your tire business like 100%!!

But on one such occasion, I was swayed. Because it's on draft. You know, draft.

So Mas Vino calls me. At first I'm skeptical, because a company who calls their winery "More Wine" sounds fairly cheesy, by which, I mean it sounds like something you'd find on the table at an Olive Garden, if you were to walk into one, which you would never, ever do.

On the other hand, I drink beer with names like "Moose Drool" "Hop Stoopid" so I really shouldn't judge on name alone. Otherwise, I'd never have made such close friends with Applesauce McWeaselchowder. interesting thing is that, instead of bottling, they keg their wine up in roughly pony-sized kegs. Restaurants then put these pump kegs atop their bar, and let it pour out. The advantage is that the wine is pushed by Nitrogen, filling the headspace as wine empties, and virtually eliminating oxidation. The stuff is good for months. To illustrate the point, the rep brought me a keg that had been first opened like 90 days prior, and it still was delicious. The advantages of Mas Vino (I still can't say that with a straight face) are the lack of oxidized wine, which eliminates pouring out 1/4 bottles of wine all the time. You see, we're a tavern, and don't sell tons of wine...

The disadvantage is that the keg is fairly large, and fairly ... let's say, unattractive ... atop the bar. I stated as much, because I always say what I think (except when I don't). So she tells me that the keg can ALSO be tapped using a conventional draft system, and pushed through draft faucets. NOW you're talking. We maintain the pub look-and-feel, save the environment by not generating as many empty bottles, keep wine fresh for much longer, and improve our house wine to, frankly, a really tasty blended red, and a chard.

The chard keg sits in the basement keg walk-in, along with the nitrogen tank. The red is just below the bar at ambient temperature. Both feed to a brand new two-handle draft tower to the far left of your usual 10 drafts, increasing our draft list to 12 (9 beer, 1 cider, 2 wine). Time will tell if we've made the right move, but so far, the comments have been thoroughly positive. We are among the first to have a draft wine system anywhere in the area, and really anywhere at all. So come check it out, we won't make fun of you for ordering wine at the pub ...

Well, maybe a little.


Maria said...

As always Noah, you tell a great story. That is awesome that wine kegs exist! So I am going to geek out on you for a second. Why on earth did you have a nitrogen triflouride ball and stick model embedded in your story? Is this in response to the environmentally friendly aspect of the keg, because nitrogen trifloride is a green house gas? Or is it because of the wine is nitrogenated, in which it should be just two nitrogen atoms bonded together. Or is there another use for nitrogen triflouride within a tavern that I am unaware of?

ps. Come to my graduation :)


Noah and Mirjam Bolmer said...

I wish I had a better story, but I only happened to have a nitrogen trifluoride clipart on me at the moment I was writing that. It was representing the gas on the wine, protecting it from oxygen. Here

Just for you ;)
Love ya, working on getting there for graduation