The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2012

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Page 83 of 128

"W hen I was hired at Restaurant Depot, the original plan was to put a whole- sale/distributorship program in place," says Ron Miranda, Director of Wine & Spirits for the wholesaler-distributor sub-agent. "We're not competing with distributors; we are partners with Southern, Young's, Specialty Cellars, Wine Warehouse and Classic Wines.With us, buyers or restaurateurs can pick up just one bottle if need be. We also visit restau- rants and taste buyers on our private labels. We are here for convenience." There is nothing fancy about Restaurant Depot, nor does there need to be. After all, the cash and carry, food- and drink-centric warehouse store, with corporate offi ces in College Point, New York, operates its approximately 100 nationwide locations on the belief that the needs of the restaurant industry professionals that exclusively make up their clientele are not dictated by unnecessarily shiny objects. So when the company fully launched the fi rst round of their own private label wines to be specifi cally sold in-house last November (in CA and AZ only at this point ), it was no surprise that the products were marketed with the company's overarching customer service model in mind. "We are not here to create demand," explains Miranda. "Before introducing new products, we have to listen and understand what our customer's needs are. We want to just be a place where people in the restaurant industry can come and buy quality products at a good price." It is rather evident that Restaurant Depots' specially made blended red and white wines are made in the spirit of providing their customers cost-effective choice and function. Indeed, the names attached to the wines serve as more of a descriptive purpose than as a branding tool; labels boasting monikers such as Charlie's Blend, Armeli Family Vineyards and Bistro Select (the Bistro Select Chardonnay garnered a Gold Medal at this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition while the Merlot took a silver) may not necessarily grab the atten- tion of the consumer poking around aisle two of the local wine shop, nor are they intended to. However, they may hold a certain measure of appeal to budget-conscious restaurateurs who are looking to offer their customers a quality, yet inexpensive glass pour. They made the conscious effort to partner with several family-owned and operated winemakers such as Rutherford Wine Company in Napa and Castellani Vineyards in Tuscany in order to create elegant wines that also carried a more intimate feel. Private Label Restaurant Depot's private label wines are designed to blend cost-eff ectiveness and functionality along with an elegant product. Thus far, the private labels have been well received by long-time industry customers as well as new patrons lured in by the program's intrigue. So much so, that Restaurant Depot is using its wine production as a tem- plate to branch into other potable avenues that will serve a similar purposeā€”the plan is to have their own tequila and French vodka hit their shelves by the fall, and other products including craft beer and rum are slated to follow in the future. The products of tomorrow have already created plenty of buzz today, notes Miranda. "We have quite a few restaurants that love our wines, and can't wait for our spirits to be released," he says. "They know how much quality goes into our winemaking, so they are eager to see what else we are capable of doing. " august 2012 / the tasting panel / 83

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