Carrie Omegna was working on the import and distribution side of the wine business when she met Renee Erickson, chef and owner of The Walrus and the Carpenter. The restaurant was one of her accounts and they became friends, travel partners and drinking buddies. Erickson entrusted Carrie with the wine program, and she’s now buying for four Seattle restaurants in the Sea Creatures group, including Bateau, Bar Melusine and The Whale Wins. At The Walrus, she pushes all of the back-vintage Muscadet she can get her hands on.
At The Walrus we are five years old now and the patterns are pretty well established. We sell a lot of wines by the glass and by the pichet [pitcher] as well. Our glass and pichet sales far out struck the bottles but I am pleasantly surprised by how many high-end bottles of Champagne we sell. It’s increased this past year as I’ve put a few more on the list. They are such a great food wine with plenty of different styles. One of my favorite pairings is brut rosé Champagne and steak tartare.
Muscadet and oysters, with a twist
I’ve been trying to put older wines on the list—Muscadet, Pouilly-Fumé, Chablis—and they’ve been selling really well. Sometimes we have to talk people into them because they think Muscadet is only good when it is really young, but I’ve had a lot of fun pouring 2007 and 2009s. I am searching for some more in the market but I think I have cleaned just about everyone out. Now the oldest one I can find is 2010.
Your third best-selling wine is a cabernet franc blanc?
It was actually a mistake. We did a wine event with a producer at The Whale Wins and Corey Schuster of Jackalope Cellars crashed the party. I met him and he happened to have his wines there so I tasted them and I said, ‘These are delicious.’ He had this white cabernet franc. It’s super charming and I thought this would be perfect at Walrus. He produces very little of it, between 80-140 cases a year. He may be upping the production because we bought a good percentage of his first couple of vintages. He didn’t mean to make it; he needed to concentrate the cabernet franc in his first vintage, so he did a saignée and that was the result. It’s super pale—in fact, this year it looks almost like a white wine. We sold it by the glass for $16 at first. People were curious about it and the staff got behind it—they loved it, and they love Corey. I had him come in and give them the story, which always helps. He is one of our family now.
Cocktails on the rise
It’s been so cold in Seattle we’ve been selling a lot more liquor. I mean it’s been so cold here. Usually it’s in the 40s and it has been in the 20s, so it’s been really interesting for me to see that. The cocktails are on the lighter side, not so many brown spirits, more vermouths and amaro cocktails.
I’m thinking of bringing high-end Sherry to The Walrus and pouring it by the ounce. Right now we just have a Manzanilla by the glass; that’s been selling pretty well—people are responding to it. Sherries, both dry and sweet, are starting to have a small comeback but I’d love to see that grow, and it’s something I’ll be focusing on this coming year. I think Sherry is fascinating—and it goes really well with oysters.
Deanna Gonnella, is a graduate of NYC’s International Culinary Center’s Classic Culinary Arts program, a private chef and our in-house expert on all things culinary. She’s also worked the floor as a sommelier, and advised buyers at Vintry Fine Wines in Manhattan, so she knows a thing or two about wine.