Jen Fields has been the Wine Director for Alden & Harlow in Cambridge since it opened two years ago. Previously at Toro, Fields focuses on keeping her bottle list priced near or under $100: she describes it as a mixed tape of her favorites, playing on loop for her guests.
That zin—the Broc Cellars Sonoma County 2014 Zinfandel Vine Star—to be honest, I put that on, and even though it is my best selling wine [in the fourth quarter of this past year], Broc Cellars wines have limited availability. So I switch up the wines from that producer every month or two, we’ve probably had six or seven different wines on the list. We’ll grab a few cases, and then change it out. The last few blends/varieties have been familiar to our guests, the grenache blend also sold quite well.
Orange wine and Italian struggles
I just picked up the Foradori 2014 Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco for our offbeat section. We have a separate section for orange wines—I’m a huge fan and these tend to pair quite well with Chef Michael [Scelfo]’s cuisine. Since this is like a baby orange wine with only a short amount of skin contact, the staff really pushes it; they really like it. It helps to create a conversation with guests and while it is still an orange wine, it is a much cleaner, more accessible style.
Chef’s menu is heavily vegetable-focused, but not super light. It incorporates lots of nut purées and a decent amount of dairy, and I think these vegetable-rich dishes taste awesome with orange wines.
But Italian wines don’t sell as well as France and California. So it’s funny that the Heitz Grignolo from California was one of our best selling reds for a year and a half. We went through twenty cases in the past year, which was everything in Massachusetts. I mean it’s a Piemontese variety in Napa, but we sold a ton.
I don’t have a sauvignon blanc on the list but I bring in glass pours to fill style profiles with wines guests might not have heard of. The jacquere by the glass [the Saint-Romain 2013 Vin de Savoie] fills the void of style that people might want in a crisp, mineral-driven sauvignon blanc.
I have some quirky, indigenous varietals on the list that people are less comfortable with, and when they don’t engage with a server, the look to something that feels comfortable, like France and California. But there are four or five producers the servers attach themselves to—they sell what they are excited about and tell the winemaker story. Like Donkey & Goat [the Roussanne Stone Crusher from 2013], we’ve had them on for quite a while. I always have a Scholium Project wine. And from Spain, Raul Perez or Gramona Cava. I’ve also had Peter Lauer on the list since we’ve opened and always the Teutonic Wine Company.