A General Manager-Wine Director Talks Fruit Wine
Friday, December 3, 2010
Ginger Henderson says her success with sparkling cherry wine at Chicago’s award-winning French-American restaurant North Pond shows that fruit wine has a place on a fine dining wine list. Here she discusses the purpose and impact boutique fruit wine can have on a wine list.
By Todd Spencer
Ginger, first tell us a little about the last two restaurants you’ve managed: North Pond in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and Fenouil in downtown Portland, Oregon.
At North Pond, Chef Bruce Sherman holds true to the “Arts and Crafts” ideal in the culinary philosophy. He utilizes exceptional ingredients from the local market at the height of its season in his fine French-American cuisine. Whenever possible he supports small local farmers and treats their products with respect. The path from earth to plate remains clear.
At Fenouil, Chef Jake Martin creates Contemporary Pacific Northwest cuisine. It’s ingredient-driven, and his dishes change with the seasons, which is a technique he calls a “living menu.” Jake supports small local farmers and treats their produce and products with a sense of simplicity in every dish.
What do boutique fruit wines, hard ciders, fruit liquors & spirits, honey wines, rhubarb wines, etc., add to a wine list, cocktail list or menu?
Many of these products support local farms and wineries, which reflects the philosophy of a lot of restaurants right now.
North Pond included a sparkling cherry from Chateau Chantal winery in Michigan. What kind of reaction did sparkling cherry get from the restaurant staff and patrons when you first introduced it?
The guests at North Pond are pretty adventurous and like to support local products. The staff knows this, so Chateau Chantal’s sparkling cherry wine got a good response from them as well. The older clientele liked the sparkling cherry because they have a sweeter palate and prefer items with a lower alcohol percentage. We definitely sold a handful of the product because people just love bubbles and there is a great sense of romance attached to it — especially in a pink/red hue! We also liked giving it out complimentary for special occasions after dinner or for VIP guests who may not have ordered dessert. Or as a paring to dessert.
How did the sparkling cherry make its way onto the wine list at North Pond?
Our wine list featured many small craft producers, and I had a hostess whose family was related somehow to the people at Chateau Chantal.
Did you order directly from Chateau Chantal or through a Chicago distributor?
We ordered directly from the winery. Even though they’re in Michigan, they had a license to ship directly to restaurants in Illinois.
Would you say that for restaurants emphasizing farm-to-table, adding regional fruit wines resonates nicely with this identity? Reinforcing the agrarian, rural traditions behind the menu?
Yes, it just made sense that this would be a part of our wine list at North Pond.
What kind of reaction did a cherry wine garner from patrons checking out the wine list?
People were always curious about it and asked questions.
What do you think about adding, say, a pumpkin wine, apple wine or hard cider for the fall; a cherry wine or honey wine for Valentine’s Day; a raspberry wine for summer, etc.
I believe that non-grape wine varieties have a better chance of success on a wine list/cocktail list/dessert pairings if it is done seasonally. The guests are smarter than ever when it comes to seasons and the ingredients that should be represented in that particular season. Having said that, there are certainly some fruit wine varieties that would work year-round. The sparkling cherry was a year-round fixture at North Pond.
You do not currently have any fruit wine on the Fenouil wine list. Are you open to the possibility of adding some at some point. Say, from a Washington or Oregon winery?
Absolutely. Fruit wines would be fun to pair with our desserts and the extensive cheese program.
Any other thoughts on the topic of non-grape wine in restaurants?
I would love to represent more non-grape wines/spirits on our cocktail lists here at Fenouil; they could inspire creativity that has endless possibilities of thinking outside the box.
Ginger Henderson is the general manager and wine director at Fenouil in Portland, Oregon. Previously, she had been the general manager and wine director of Chicago’s award-winning American-French fine dining restaurant North Pond.
Categories: Restaurateur's Blog
Friday, December 3, 2010
Welcome to Cherry wine dot com’s Drinker’s Blog, where fans of fruit wine, honey wine, hard ciders and exotics keep up with the latest in the non-grape wine universe.
Whether you’re curious about old-fashioned country wine, the people making it professionally or even how to make it yourself, then you’ve found the right place.
Cherry wine dot com — and this blog —started because millions of Americans are fans of non-grape wines & liquors and hard ciders and half of them don’t even know it yet.
Fruit wine fans and curious would-be drinkers range in age from 21 to 121, are composed of all ethnicities and live in every corner of America from small towns to the Big Apple.
Some fruit wine fans don’t even consider themselves “wine drinkers” in the traditional sense but like the taste of fruit wines, which are more familiar tasting and can be found in sweeter versions than grape wines generally are.
Others, me included, are regular red and white wine drinkers who also love the adventure, romance and rural tradition that non-grape wines offer, no matter if they’re sweet as pie, dry as a bone or somewhere in-between.
I love a good Cabernet but for me, nothing says “spring” like a wine made from field-fresh strawberries or freshly cut rhubarb. Nothing says, “autumn” like a hard apple cider. Nothing tastes more like summer than a peach, blackberry or dandelion wine, and nothing warms up a dark, freezing January evening exactly like a smoky port distilled from summer berries or orchard fruit.
Grape wines simply do not have the same connections to the seasons. Or to regions of the country:
No variety of grape wine says “the South” the way a peach or persimmon wine does. Nothing says “Midwest” more than an apple wine or pumpkin. Nothing says “New England” like a cranberry wine. Nothing says “the North” like a chokecherry or thimbleberry. And nothing says “West Coast” like a huckleberry, boysenberry or fig wine.
I know that there will be more than a few people excited by the idea of this site, especially since non-grape wines are so hard to find. There are 6,400 wineries in the United States, yet there are only 700 that make non-grape wine. That’s only one-out-of-ten wineries, and those tend to be smaller, privately owned entities off the radar of corporate distributors.
But just because you can’t find a dry raspberry, organic hard cider, sparkling rhubarb or pear eau de vie at a store, doesn’t mean you can’t buy it. Because you probably can.
On Cherry wine dot com you will find search functions for every style and variety of non-grape wine, hard cider and liquor. Each search will give you a list of products that are legally shippable to the state of your choice. When you find a wine that you want listed on Cherry wine dot com as shipping to your state, follow the ordering instructions listed on the wine’s page for that particular winemaker and the winery will ship it to you via UPS or Fed Ex in about a week (unless you decide to pay extra for next-day or two-day shipping).
Let the adventure begin. There’s a world of taste out there ready to be explored. Cheers.
Todd Spencer is the founder of Fruit Wine Media, LLC and editor of Cherry wine dot com. He’s written for Wines & Vines and Wine Business Monthly, and contributed articles to national publications and national radio about everything from the importance of local economies to donuts to global warming and music. He’s a longtime magazine editor and advertising agency proofreader in San Francisco and his native Michigan. He discovered cherry wine in college and counts that and other fruit-based wines and liquors as among his favorites.
Categories: Drinker's Blog