The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

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14 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 MODERATELY SIZED WINE LISTS FOCUSED EXCLUSIVELY on culinary or regional themes will never win "Grand Awards." I personally don't agree with those circumstances, but that's the way it is. But focused wine lists can still win multiple acclamations and be successful where it counts: among guests, with fawning local and national media and in pure sales and profits. You would be hard- pressed to find any restaurant owner who would prefer a restau- rant that is not profitable over one that is, Grand Award or not. This past January I took a restaurant group to Frasca in Boulder, CO, where Bobby Stuckey MS presides as owner, Wine Director and, as he puts it, "chief busser." Admittedly, restaurants owned by Master Sommeliers tend to be weird, by normal industry stan- dards. Where else do you find—as in the case of Frasca—half the FOH budget sunk into a dozen and a half types of wine glasses, and machines, entire rooms and staff dedicated exclusively to cleaning and polishing those glasses? But that's not the most unusual thing about Frasca. That would be its focus almost exclusively on the cuisine and wines of Friuli- Venezia Giulia, which Stuckey executes with his Chef/Partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. If there are influences from outside the realm of Northern Italy on the menu and wine list, the empha- sis still rests squarely on dishes and wines that at least emulate the delicacy, subtle earthiness and sense of balance, clarity and delinea- tion found in dishes and wines from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Yet over the past ten years Frasca has been voted or pro- claimed Colorado's number-one restaurant, and its popularity has allowed Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson to more than double their operations. In 2013 Frasca garnered a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service, and most recently Stuckey was named 2015 Wine Enthusiast "Sommelier of the Year." As one of my colleagues put it, after our dinner at Frasca: "Is Friuli a town of great culinary tradition and innovation? Possibly. Was anyone in Boulder clamoring for Friulian food and wine in Boulder before Frasca opened? Probably not. Is their commit- ment to that identity unwavering? Absolutely!" It is Frasca's focus on the narrowest of themes, we concluded, that has been the key to its critical and financial success. Keeping it simple works. In fact, it is often said that keeping it simple is the hardest thing for a sommelier or restaurant wine manager to do. It requires dis- cipline, courage and creativity. It is no longer a matter of slapping together a phone book–sized list for guests and staff to decipher. There are a lot of positives. Focused wine lists: ■ are potentially more profitable because, freed from the com- pulsion to stock wines from every region in the world, you are no longer locked into excessive inventories. ■ increase the chances of guests experiencing wines more ide- ally matched to your cuisine. ■ give competitive advantage in terms of lower markups of well- known products, and higher markups of unknown products. ■ tend to be more flexible, freeing you to invest in smart, time- sensitive purchases. ■ are friendlier to guests and staff in respect to wine list descrip- tions, training programs, tasting menus and continuous event planning. Then there is this bottom line: A focused wine program gives you a higher percentage chance of being the best at what you do, which is how you are perceived. It may not be the usual way of garnering attention, but it works. { bottom line } Keeping It Simple PHOTO: JOE FRIEND Owner Bobby Stuckey, MS, serves as Wine Director at Frasca in Boulder, CO, where the list concentrates on the wines of Friuli- Venezia Giulia. CAN FOCUSED WINE LISTS WIN ACCLAMATIONS? by Randy Caparoso

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