A little rant about wine in restaurants

Disclaimer…I am not a wine rep but married to one and a lover of Ontario and Niagara VQA wine. These opinions are entirely my own. Living in Niagara I live in an area that has some of the best but challenging cold climate terroir and we have winemakers that can really work magic!

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One of my biggest pet peeves is just this….time and time again I go to a restaurant and see that they either don’t have any local wine by the glass or they have a less than desirable local choice. The response always is “we don’t sell much local wine”.

Honestly I just want to jump up and say “can we talk about this because I can tell you why.”    There are three reasons why you don’t sell local wine…One, don’t charge me $8 for a glass of wine that has a less than desirable taste profile and that you paid $8 for the entire bottle! You are selling that $8 bottle for $40.  That crazy kind of markup is not acceptable and although I might know a bit more than the average person your customers know enough to know the value is just not there. Price your wine accordingly and you will be surprised how your sales will pick up.  Be known as the restaurant that has great wine for reasonable prices. People talk they will tell their friends and you will start seeing more interest in your wine. Choose your wine well and don’t be afraid to rotate the list a bit.   There are some fantastic VQA wines that are in the $8-11 licencee price range, try them you will be surprised!

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Two, train your staff on service and Niagara wine…..winery reps love nothing more than to train staff for you! Just the other evening I was enjoying a nice Italian meal when issue #1 happened.  The wine wasn’t corked, it was fine but not an $8 a glass of wine. Also it suspiciously tasted more like a Baco Noir than a Cab Franc but I digress.  The restaurant was full and as I looked around there were lots of empty glasses. These people were still waiting for their food and would have in all likelihood ordered another beverage. So again I say, train your staff or let someone help do it for you.  A small investment in training will come back to you through an increase in sales.  In the industry reps work together, they are happy to arrange a Monday afternoon tasting for your staff at their winery and a couple of colleagues’ wineries.  Talk to your rep, they are some of the nicest, knowledgeable and fun people I know!


Three, ask your rep to make pairing suggestions that work with your menu. So you’ve trained your staff and they are excited to start selling, so let’s help them out.  Your customer will appreciate how well a riesling paired with their Thai food.


To end I want to give a great big shout out to some of the restaurants who are doing a fantastic job and already know how important these three things are! They feature a great wine list by the glass, have well trained staff and they support the local wine industry and are supported right back.  Thanks for doing what you do as I don’t think you hear that enough!  This is only a short list, if you know of others please comment and we’ll add them to the list.



Niagara restaurants who do a great job!

Stone Road Grille

The Charles Inn

The Garrison House, Featured in You’ve Gotta Eat Here!

The OfficeTap and Grill

Pow Wow

AG Cuisine

Strada West

Shaw Cafe and Wine Bar

Wellington Court

Smokin Buddha, Featured in You’ve Gotta Eat Here!


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