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Somm Sez: Glass Act

Posted on  | April 23, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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John Duncan, Bonterra, Charlotte, NC

Church wine was never like this. Wine lovers at Bonterra—housed in a spacious, smartly renovated 110-year-old church in Charlotte, North Carolina’s historic Southend District—have 200 choices of wine by the glass. All of the glass pours are available by the bottle as well (displayed on a veritable wall of wine), and 150 bottles beyond those populate a Cellar List. We caught up with owner and wine director John Duncan for insight regarding how he manages the dynamic program.


 THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: What is a current favorite pairing from your menu and list? JOHN DUNCAN: Any of our new Euro-pean whites with all the great fresh sea-food we get, they all work great.

TBN: What kind of special promotions do you do?

JD: Malbec and Meatballs on Monday. Tacos on Tuesday, half off all Spanish wines. Wine’d Down Wednesday; all wine are half-price by the glass (this gives us a chance to clear some dead soldiers be-fore reprint). Pizza and Pinots on Thurs-day (includes Pinot Noir, Gris, Blanc and and Grigio). Fish Camp Friday; all sea-food tapas only $5 and all beer half-price.TBN: What are some wines that have done especially well by the glass?JD: All the Robert Foley wines are popu-lar—The Griffin red blend, Kelly’s Cuvée Syrah, Semillon. We own the sparkling BTG selection in town, currently serving 11 from $7 [Simonnet-Febvre Rosé] to $20 [Veuve Clicquot].

TBN: What software do you use?

JD: Positec POS and good old Excel and Word.

TBN: How many distributors do you deal with?

JD: I try to buy at least something from all 20+, but mostly from five to seven. I like when they bring winemakers by to see our system. We place orders each Mon-day and Thursday; reps stop by to pick-up their orders for next day delivery.

TBN: What are some recent trends you’ve seen in Charlotte?

JD: Consumers are loosening up a bit, $12-$15 for wine by the glass is not so bad anymore. Big bottle sales are up as well for groups of six or more. Around Charlotte, a lot of restaurants are start-ing to offer more wines by the glass. New systems, dispensers, etc.—all very expensive and impressive. We’ve had 200 wines by the glass for 14 years.

TBN: How does your service approach change with so many wines by the glass?

JD: We continue to aim for a table of four, for example, to order a different glass of wine for each of their courses. Two or three glasses per person for a four-course meal.

TBN: What other wine programs do you admire?

JD: I admire anyone experimenting with keg wine. I think it’s revolutionary and could be the way of the future. Cuts down on bottle cost, cardboard, ship-ping expense—and they last longer than an open bottle. I’m waiting on someone to build a bigger wall of wine than ours with taps on the wall.



Cuisine: Contemporary, seasonal, Southern
Selections on wine list: 350
Bottles in inventory: 3,000
Price range of list: $28 to $80; $75- $1,800 on Cellar List (CL)
Average bottle price: $60; $125 CL
Sweet spot on list: $50; $150-$175 CL
Wine list strengths: By-the-glass program of 200 wines from a variety of regions and grapes
Wines by the glass: 80 whites (42°F), 80 reds (62°F), plus Ports, dessert wines and bubblies; about 10-12 entries turn over every two weeks
Price range by the glass: $7-$20
Stemware: No particular brand; 16 oz. white, 19.5 oz. red; specialty glasses for “serious bottles”
Preservation system: Nitrogen/argon gas; bottles are tested for freshness and thrown out if necessary (total waste is less than $150 cost per week)


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