Review of the Wine Media: “Restaurant Wine”

This is the first in a series of reviews of wine publications


Ronn Wiegand is no ordinary wine reviewer/writer. Consider the credentials: Wiegand is the first person on the planet to hold both the “Master of Wine” and “Master Sommelier” title. Plus, he passed both exams on his first attempt. So it should not a surprise that is bi-monthly newsletter, “Restaurant Wine” is also not ordinary.

“Restaurant Wine” is written for the on-premise (restaurant) trade. It’s goal is to make restaurant professionals, restaurant owners, sommeliers, and wine buyers better at what they do. And this explains its content.

Issues contain interviews with Master sommeliers, profiles of restaurants with successful wine programs along with the kind of details about those programs most people couldn’t pry out of the buyer with the best of bribes. In issue #102, for example, we learn that Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Charlotte, North Carolina sells over $1 million in wine annually, that its wine sales per table is $30, that 70% of sales are by the glass, what its wines sales breakdown is by country, varietal and color, how many wines are on its list, average price per bottle and glass, and that the value of the restaurants wine inventory is $120,000. All this information comes with a detailed story on how the restaurant’s wine program operates, what works for it and what doesn’t.

This kind of content is par for the course in Restaurant wine, making it really the most important publication in America for the on-premise wine manager and wine buyer.

The publication is decidedly educational, but it’s an education for the educated. Wiegand often delivers special reports on the industry trends, varietals, merchandising and more.

Each issue also includes tasting notes and reviews of wine. Wiegand uses what is essentially a 10 point scale to rate wines. His is a star rating system that also attaches a “+” to wines that fall between one rating designation and another. In addition, this scores include identification of wines that are “Unusually smooth for the wine’s type and age, and a good wine by-the-glass choice”. Not one to waste our time, Wiegand only publishes reviews of wines that rate * * * or higher. Finally, his reviews of wines tend to identify and focus on the style of the wine. While generally short descriptions, Wiegand’s experience in tasting and judging wines is obvious. You feel you have a very good handle on the wine after reading these reviews. For example, this review of the 2002 Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot:

“supple and very fruity in style, this is an excellent Merlot, particularly at the price. Very smoothly textured, lightly oaked and moderately persistent on the finish. It tastes of plum, blueberry, toast and spicy oak. * * * *”

Lest you forget he is writing for wine buyers, prices are given for their retail prices as well as their wholesale prices. Furthermore, review categories on not simply broken down by country of origin and varietal, but by price category: medium, high and expensive. He always includes the cases produced if available, an window for “peak drinkablity”, the producer’s phone number and what bottle sizes the wine is available in.

Ronn Wiegand is not well known among wine consumers even though he wrote the wine column for the San Francisco Examiner from 1986-1991. However, within the industry he has one of the best reputations as a marketing pro and a reviewer.

“Restaurant Wine” cost $99 for a one year subscription. If you are buying wine for a restaurant or at retail it really is one of the indispensable publications form one of America’s wine pros.

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