Dine, Then Shop For Wine

Restaurants with attached retail stores are on the rise.

Restaurants with attached wine retail stores are on the rise. Instead of offering a business card or matchbook for customers on their way out the door, some restaurants invite them to buy a bottle of wine in an attached retail boutique. And why pay steep restaurant markups when these eateries only charge a bit more than the retail price?

CUCINA enoteca, in Irvine, California, opened in December 2011 and brings not only an Italian menu brimming with locally grown ingredients to diners, but 250 wines to buy (mostly from California and Italy), too. Diners simply tack on a $10 corkage fee to enjoy a bottle with their meal, or uncork one later at home.

Sister eatery CUCINA urbana in San Diego, open since 2009, also sells wine, boasting over 100 selections with prices on average up to 35% less than local retailers, says Wine Director Ben Kephart. He strives to track down boutique wineries that practice responsible farming, what he feels is a good match for comforting Italian food. “If you’re in the market for a $20 wine, you’re going to get one of the best $20 wines out there,” Kephart says.

Anne Jackson, sommelier at Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale, Arizona, follows a similar philosophy when picking out wines sold in the attached Marketplace, alongside gourmet-grocery items like rustic loaves of bread and sacks of coffee beans.

“We want wines that are not always accessible at mainstream retailers,” Jackson says. “Having a mix of everyday drinking wines, as well as a mix of eclectic choices, is my goal.”

Pricing her inventory between $15 and $30 a bottle, Jackson strives to offer 10 different wines at one time. “That way, it’s not overwhelming to find what they’re looking for,” she says.

Chicago’s BIN 36, a wine bar and restaurant in the city’s River North neighborhood, is no stranger to retailing wine. Brian Duncan, the wine director, first partnered with a California winery to produce a 2003 vintage for an exclusive BIN 36 label. Today, there are eight wines under the Bin label, including Zinfandel and a sparkling wine, which are sold in BIN 36’s boutique. In addition, Duncan brings bottles from around the world to wine shoppers at very affordable prices (between $12 and $30 a bottle).

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