Variety, value and quality are the benchmarks for these successful by-the-glass lists.
As club chefs continue to deliver bolder, more flavorful and inventive food, club sommeliers and beverage directors are reaching beyond chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon to offer members wines by-the-glass that are nimble and adventurous—and function almost as an extension of the club’s identity.
“Wines by the glass give members the chance to try something new and different,” says Silvio Garcia, Beverage Director and Club Sommelier of Cherokee Town and Country Club (Atlanta, Ga.). “The most successful lists feature just enough variety, without overwhelming members with too many choices.”
Cherokee carries $1 million in wine inventory in its award-winning cellar. And members have access to more than 28,000 bottles, representing nearly every grape varietal, wine region, price and brand.
The club’s by-the-glass list, however, features only thirty wines handpicked by Garcia, who believes the selection truly showcases the club’s wine style and palate.
Cherokee’s glass list includes two sparkling choices, a rosé, a sweet white, a pinot grigio, a sancerre, and two sauvignon blancs. There are six chardonnays ranging in price from $12.50 per glass up to $20.00 per glass. There are four pinot noirs, four cabernet sauvignons, a malbec, a shiraz, a merlot and a cabernet blend. (View Cherokee’s by-the-glass list here.)
“I suggest clubs overlap the categories, so the glass list doesn’t become too exhaustive,” says Garcia. “For example, maybe you offer three different dry red wines from three different regions and brands at three different prices. More often than not, when presented with three different prices—low, medium and high—members will choose the medium price point. Make sure that wine has a decent value.”
By shifting the focus of Cherokee’s glass list away from the simple and obvious picks, and instead toward variety, value and quality, Garcia aims to excite members. He invites them to engage with the staff to learn and try more.
“Our members enjoy being able to try different wines without the commitment of having a whole bottle,” says Garcia. “It encourages them to branch out and explore what our cellar has to offer.”
At Lehigh Country Club (LCC), Food & Beverage Manager and Certified Sommelier Bradley A. Shultz, CS, runs a tighter list than Garcia. It features twelve wines picked by Shultz, who came to the club about two years ago.
“The list I inherited was built around Wine Spectator ratings,” says Shultz. “Those ratings can be very informative, but there’s so much more out there.”
LCC calls the wines it serves by the glass “tent wines.” In addition to the twelve tent choices, there are also a handful of low-cost house wines, which, until recently, were outpacing tent wines.
To reverse that trend, Shultz had to establish a more dynamic wine culture within the club. He did so by offering tastings and education to both the members and the servers. After he earned their trust, he began tinkering with the tent list.
It now features a bordeaux, a cabernet, a barolo, a pinot noir, a rioja, a sangiovese, a chardonnay, a pinot gris, a grüner veltliner, a sauvignon blanc, a chenin blanc and a sparkling rosé. Prices range from $12 per glass up to $17 per glass. (View LCC’s by-the-glass list here.)
“Some well-known brands make the cut, but so do some lesser-known wines,” says Shultz. “It’s all about education, learning your membership and finding out how adventurous they are. You can’t just put a glass in front of them and say, ‘I think you’ll like this.’ You need to tell the story, and you need your servers to be able to tell the story, too.”
Shultz’ strategy appears to be working: “We sell more tent wines than house wines now,” he says. All of which is to say that LCC’s tent list has become successful—not in spite of a makeover that offers more adventurous choices and demands more education, but because of it.