White wines make up half of your Top Ten best-selling wines: That’s pretty unusual.
Seven years ago, when we opened, we sold a lot of white wine, and now so many people come wanting expressly to taste something Friulano. Much of this is Matt Mather’s work—out of the entire wine team, it’s him who does all the heavy lifting. Six or seven years ago, distributors and importers were just not that energized to work with us in bringing in Friulano wines; they were like, “Come on, how much Friulano wine are you really going to sell?” But Mather spends so much energy working to get wines here, to find them an importer, a distributor. And when he does, we may take twelve cases, but [the distributor will] bring in twenty; that’s eight cases for the rest of Colorado. Other places will list it; Brett Zimmerman at Boulder Wine Merchant will carry it. People get to know the wines, here and elsewhere, so each year it gets easier for us.
Austria shares some space with Friuli among your best-selling wines.
This is the biggest success story in wine, what the Austrians have done in the last twelve years. If I look at my list fifteen years ago at The Little Nell, I could only Austrian wine from two importers, and I had to take ten cases in order to pour it by the glass. Today, you walk down Pearl Street [in Boulder], and at The Kitchen, at Mateo, almost anywhere you stop you can have a glass of grüner veltliner. It’s almost normal to have a grüner on your by-the-glass list anywhere now. And in major metropolitan areas like NY, Chicago or LA, it is normal.
The Edi Keber seems to have flown off your list this year.
It comes from a little town in the banana belt of Collio, staring down Slovenia. Keber’s attitude is, we should talk about Collio, not sauvignon blanc or any other varietal. The region has long been home to all sorts of varieties that he blends in this wine. It’s mostly stainless steel, with a little neutral wood, and it’s powerful, well delineated wine, rich but with great acidity. Matt got it in; it lists for $55 and drinks like a $105 bottle of wine.
In the midst of all of the Friuli and Austrian wines that make up your Top 10, there’s Bibi Graetz from Tuscany.
Tuscany is just amazing. You offer a nice, generous Tuscan red for a decent price on a list and it’s just going to motor. If Frances Mayes had written about Friuli, we might be selling a lot more schioppettino…
You reported that your wines sales are way up.
We had a record year. Boulder, I hope, seems to be coming out the recession. We also did a remodel, and, while, at the end of the day, it added only a few more tables, it was received almost like a reopening. December was our biggest month ever.
Yet all your best-selling wines run less than $100 a bottle.
We have a four-course menu, and it’s common to see a four-top do at least two bottles of wine. So, whereas a lot of places have a sweet spot of about $120 for a bottle of wine, we do essentially the same thing, only spread out among multiple bottles.
What’s the most remarkable trend you’ve observed in the last year or so?
Forty guests asked me for an itinerary to go to Friuli last year. It used to be that, when we went to Friuli with our staff, we’d never see another American except maybe Joe Bastianich. Now, when we have our Monday night winemaker dinners and there’s a Friuli winemaker in, the room is filled with people who’ve visited that guy. It’s wild for the guest, and it’s wild for the winemaker; the room is just pumping. This I never expected.