Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Good wine list idea: one-word descriptions

We dined last week at TBD, a restaurant in San Francisco's mid-market district, and the wine list has a great concept that other restaurants should consider.

I love the TBD list because of the wines on it, the generously small markups, and especially because of the format.

Most of the wines have simple one- or two-word descriptions. That one word adds a lot.

A longtime complaint of mine about restaurant wine lists is that you have to be a wine expert to use them. Sommeliers order great, obscure wines but don't tell us why we should buy them.

Look at the list. The descriptions aren't complicated. "Leaner Cabernet Franc" or "Riper Cabernet Franc." Do we need much more than that?

The by-the-glass list (shown on the next page) is particularly helpful.

"Fruity ends Dry Pinot Gris." "Lemon-Lime-Like Godello." "Full but Bright Chardonnay." This is exactly what I want to know in ordering a glass of wine, and what I can't possibly know unless I have tasted that exact vintage from that producer and that vineyard.

Sure, you can nitpick the verbiage, but that makes you a nitpicker. No Big Dried Fruit Sangiovese for you.

We had octopus ceviche with avocado, lime and hash browns: great textural contrast. Steamed mussels, lamb sausage & tat soi: the earthy flavors made a soup so delicious we sopped up every bit. TBD "Royale" with American cheese & fries: solid burger, crispy fries with good level of saltiness.

And we had the "Aged-Toasty Semillon" by Kalin from Livermore Valley, 2000, paid $65 for it and left happy. But there are so many interesting wines on here I'd like to have. Congrats for a great list, and a great way of presenting it.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


Hana Aoi said...

Good wine list is very helpful, yet, hard to find.
I would like to go visit TBD to see the list. “Royale” sounds good, too.

Kat Mcdonald said...

I love this. I love the list. I love the descrpitions. Helpful and Thoughtout.

Ryan O'Connell said...

Like the list idea too. Although for somebody who doesn't love wine, it might still be a tad cryptic. Still, a huge improvement.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...


How this for a one- and two-word wine description:

"Overstocked [insert grape variety here]"

"Misstored [insert grape variety here]"

"Prematurely oxidized [insert pre-mox "natural" white grape variety here]"

"Obscenely overpriced [insert grape variety here]"

~~ Bob

Alfonso Cevola said...

That's a great price for the Le Chiuse Brunello!