Will Costello, MS, grew up in San Diego and moved to Las Vegas in 2012 to take on the wine at the Mandarin Oriental. He oversee the list for Twist, which is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, plus the bar, MOzen Bistro, the pool café and in-room dining. He has three sommeliers on the floor at Twist and one certified sommelier at the bar. Meanwhile, at home, he has two Chihuahua Pomeranian mixes, an Australian Shepherd and an Italian Greyhound. He spoke to Josh Greene about what’s selling well in Vegas, from bluechip Napa cabernet to sweet Aussie muscat.
How significant are tasting menu pairings in the Twist dining room?
One third to half of our wine sales are pairings, off the list. It’s advantageous for us to have a large list, but there are fewer bottle sales because we have so many wine pairings. We sell them as a set: If you order the tasting menu, you’re getting either this pairing or that pairing; it’s their choice. Half of the dining room is doing wine pairings.
All ten of your top-selling wines came in at over $100 per bottle. Why don’t any of the less expensive wines on the list sell in such quantity?
When you get off the elevator, there’s this beautiful golden wall. When guests see that, they know what they’re in for.
Our average bottle price is $135; very rarely is it below that. Sure, there are people who will order a $55 bottle of pinot grigio. But we have plenty of guests who come in and order a $300 bottle of Napa cabernet and a $500 bottle of Bordeaux.
I have some great pricing compared to my colleagues in town. They have restrictions. On average, we do a 33 percent cost of goods, but when you get up into the higher price points, I’m doing 18. Look at the price for Checkerboard Kings Row [a small cult cabernet from Napa]. I have it for $250; others have it for $350.
It’s interesting that the dessert section is the only place where the least expensive wine is number one—Yalumba Muscat for $14.
That probably has to do with wine pairings. We have a Latour Cake, with pinot grigio cream, hazelnuts, almond flour and chocolate, a nutty dish—and the pastry chef liked to sell the muscat with that.
In fact, the flight of 100 Years of Graham’s Port would be our best seller, but a flight doesn’t work on the poll form. It’s their 10, 20, 30 and 40-year-old Tawnies, and that’s $45. I specifically don’t sell single glasses of age-dated Tawnies. We tell diners they can order the whole flight. So people who want Tawny to finish with will often share a flight.
What would you order if you were dining at Twist tonight?
I would order St-Joseph from Pierre Gaillard. I just happen to love syrah. Chef Pierre Gagnaire is from the region, and the wines are suitable for his food. I’d have the venison with a cassis and pickled cabbage sauce—a chocolate and venison bone sauce called grand veneur.