The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2018

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january/february 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  85 Fred Dame: It's a rainy day here—that would have helped a few weeks ago. It seems like it was yesterday that the fires were raging. Alexis Iaconis: Yes, it was a terrible time. I have to say that our neighbors were amazing, as were our customers. We had people driving from all over Northern California to support our business. It was the best of times and the worst of times. How long has Barndiva been here? I have enjoyed so many wonderful meals I can't remember! Fourteen years. Our owners originally wanted to make it an event location, but the city fathers weren't buying, so they opened the restaurant without any experience in the business. They live on the second story of the building. Sometimes things just work out. The décor here is so European, with lovely antiques and so many unique touches. They spend a lot of time in Europe searching, and we are always making interesting changes to the décor. How many seats are there? There are 50 on the restaurant side and 50 on the Gallery Bistro side right next door. We also have seating for 60 outdoors when the weather accommodates. How many wines on the list? It seems to have grown! We now have 600 wines on the list and 25 wines by the glass: ten white, ten red, and five sparklers. Fifty of the wines are champagne and sparkling—we love our bubbles! Our owners have a passion for Champagne. We also have a nice selection of dessert wines. The list is 50 percent U.S.A. and 50 percent international with an emphasis on Burgundy. How many covers a day? About 150–300 depending on the day and season. We are open for both lunch and dinner. Do you work with the chef on menu changes? Of course. The menu changes seasonally with monthly changes based on what is available fresh. We use a large amount of local seafood and produce. How about staff training? We do it once a week on Fridays and present the new wines by the glass, which change weekly. We don't have quizzes or tests. One of the sommeliers here tried that in the past . . . not a great success. What ratio of white to red do you sell? I would say 50-50. Our lunch business is very strong and we serve a large percentage of white and rosé wines there. At night, our local Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels are wildly popular. Local wines are 75 percent of our sales. I remember before you came that the list was much smaller. Correct. I had to convince the owners that we needed more appellations and multiple vintages. The local wine-producing community here really enjoys that part of our list. Our locals are 25 percent of our clientele and are very important to us—we often see many of them more than once a week. And the local wineries are supportive? Unbelievably so. They are great to us, and of course we reciprocate by featuring their wines. I was looking at your pricing—it's not as aggressive as some I've seen in the wine country. Very true. We vary our percentages based on price and availability, and are building a reputation for an affordable and fair wine list. What about wine-menu pairings? We do them for tasting menu offerings, mainly for large parties. We have a "Somm's Table" next door in the Bistro that features a six-course menu with pairings; that's for groups of six or more. How do you sell that? There is a whole section on our website that features the Somm's Table. We do a monthly wine club feature that offers specific wines by the bottle: glass and flight. Our website had been incredibly popular with our regulars and new guests. What does Alexis like to drink? I am currently having a love affair with wines from New Zealand. I love what's exciting and new and I really didn't pay much attention to the Southern Hemisphere for a while. Now I am really enjoying the wines and the prices are great. What's wrong with the world of wine that we need to fix? Giving the guest a chance to express themselves as to what they want to drink and not what we want to sell them. We need to do more listening! Iaconis and Dame enjoyed a glass of the David Bruce 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Iaconis oversees a hefty wine list of 600 wines at Barndiva.

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