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Somm Sez: Coastal Inspiration

Posted on  | March 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Lee Spires, Aqua by El Gaucho, Seattle Washington

Situated at the tip of Seattle’s Pier 70, with Elliott Bay, Magnolia Bluff and the Space Needle highlighting panoramic views, AQUA by El Gaucho seems poised for dining drama. Fortunately, the food, wine and service are up to the challenge, and with frequent winemaker dinners, the restaurant has made itself a true destination for wine lovers.

THE BEVERAGE NETWORK:  How often do you change the wines by the glass?

LEE SPIRES: Seasonally. We go heavy on reds in the winter and do a lot of white and rosé for the summer, since we have a large deck.

TBN: What is favorite current pairing from your menu and list?

LS: Our 18 oz. frenched rib steak and 8 oz. Maine lobster tail with a bottle of Figgins red blend.

TBN: Do you do special wine promotions?

LS: We do all-day happy hour on Sunday and Mondays, and from 4-6pm the rest of the week, featuring select red and white wines.

TBN: What software system do you use to manage your list/inventory?

LS: Currently we use Excel, but we are moving to use BinWise. When I tested the BinWise method, I could see it will make things so much easier.

TBN: How many distributors do you do business with?

LS: Mainly five vendors, but there are 19 that I use to fill out my list. Also being about 20 miles away from wine country (Woodinville), I am able to buy from the wineries directly.

TBN: How do you place orders?

LS: I order wines on Mondays and Thursday. I generally text my orders in to my distributors. Some email, but rarely.

TBN: How has the new distribution system in Washington affected you?

LS: The new distribution system has not affected any of my wine orders or routines.

TBN: Do you have a strategy for displaying wines at the restaurant?

LS: We display wines on a wine table as people walk in to be seated.

TBN: Your list has a very evident connection to Washington wineries; has it always been that way?

LS: We like the focus of our list to be about the Northwest wines. There are a lot of good Pinot Noirs from Oregon.

TBN: What recent trends you have noticed in wine in general, and in your restaurant in particular?

LS: Syrah, Shiraz and Merlot sales have fallen. I also feel that a lot of people are more aware of how great the quality of Washington wines are becoming, and my sales are showing it.

TBN: How does management measure the success of your wine program?

LS: Year over year sales, for sure. And keeping on-hand inventory low.

TBN: What words-of-wisdom do you find yourself frequently telling your staff?

LS: Taste yourself—don’t let me tell you what you should drink. Be curious.

TBN: What other wine programs do you admire?

LS: I look for inspiration at RN74 in San Francisco; and at Purple and Canlis here in Seattle.


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