The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2014

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ON-PREMISE PATTER On Dek WHEN IT COMES TO AN IMPRESSIVE WINE LIST, DIO DEKA'S JEREMY DENNIS HAS IT HANDLED story and photos by John Curley W Jeremy Dennis runs the wine program at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, California. hen you are at the helm of a wine program that boasts one of the largest wine lists in the world—around 10,000 bottles under 1,200 labels—you might think that you have finally arrived. But when Jeremy Dennis took over the program about five years ago at Dio Deka restaurant in Los Gatos, California, the experience was simply intimidating. "We have some of the most expensive wines from every region of the world," he says in awed tones in the highly rated eatery in one of the more beautiful areas in all of Silicon Valley. It's fitting that Dennis is making a mark in the center of the high-tech region, because before he launched his restaurant career, Dennis was a production manager for a startup company in Santa Cruz. "It was kind of a familiar story," he laughs now: "A great idea, but it never made any money." There are spectacular successes in the Valley, but many more enterprises go south. So what to do when the bubble bursts? "I'd worked in restaurants since I was 15 years old," Dennis says, "so I thought I'd get a restaurestau rant job until I figured out what to do. I asked around for the best place, and this was it." Dennis came on as a server and bartender, but within a year, one of the restaurant owners had taken him under his wing. "He told me that I seemed to have a passion for wine," Dennis recalls, and it was true. It's clear now that Dennis is blessed with a good nose and discriminating palate, and he's having a lot of fun, as well. "We're unique in that we do such volume for a high-end restaurant," he says. Dio Deka will do 200 to 300 covers on a Saturday night, far more than most other restaurants with the same distinction. "And that means I have a larger budget to play with," Dennis laughs. Dennis oversees a program that offers not only an extensive and wide-ranging wine list, but also one that pours 30 different wines by the glass. "[The wines by the glass] are always a challenge, because they are the biggest movers," Dennis says. "But you want to pick wines that . . . are not being poured down the street." So Dio Deka offers about ten wines by the glass that can't be found anywhere else in Northern California. "I prefer to have small producers who are doing really interesting wine that maybe One of Jeremy Dennis's nobody's heard recent favorites, the 2010 of—something Veracity from Epoch Estates, that's unique and comes from Paso Robles, amazing." where winemakers are makRemember, ing Grenache-based blends Dio Deka's that Dennis says "are unlike clientele is unique, anything I've tried before." discriminating, and, it's fair to say, well-heeled. There may be only 30,000 people in the town, but there's also an Aston Martin dealership down the street, with 50 cars in stock. There's likely to be a Bentley in the Dio Deka parking lot. And Bugatti sells cars in only ten towns in all of the United States, and Los Gatos is one of them. So Dennis has a demanding audience. "Everyone wants to know what's happening and to stay on top of things," he says. And to that end, he reads "every magazine I can get my hands on," plus dozens of blogs. He tastes 50 wines a week, and he's got about got 80 wine contacts in his phone, so he's wired in to the scene. When distributors come calling, they check first to see if he's got any special interests. "I feel like I have my hand on the heartbeat of what's going on," Dennis says. january 2014  /  the tasting panel  /  103 TP0114_66-108.indd 103 12/19/13 9:48 PM

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