Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's not about the bottle

Proletariat wine.JPGHere's an idea you're going to enjoy. Premium wine by the glass, at your favorite restaurant, that costs a lot less because it comes from (wait for it) a keg.

Cheap wine's been sold like this for decades. Premium wine, a different story altogether. (Nor is this supermarket box wine, another category that's also trying to shed its image as bottom-of-the-barrel dregs). It's wine that would retail in the high $20s, but, says Darin Williams, you won't find it on the shelf in a wine store. "It's not about the bottle."

Williams is the founder of Small Lot Co-Op, a wine sales and marketing enterprise in Woodinville that gives his 20 or so clients, all smaller-scale wineries, access to the same services (financial, administrative, merchandising, client service) as bigger outfits when it comes to their prime target: Seattle-area restaurants. 

In January, Williams and Jordan Robinow (Small Lot's operations and account manager) hatched the business plan for Proletariat Wines (they'd already licensed and bonded the name). Then they called on Sean Boyd, the owner of the tiny (1,000-case) Rotie Cellars in Walla Walla, to come up with proprietary wines for their keg program. (It's not just surplus juice, like Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck.) The result, Proletariat--a wine for the people, right?--aims for that sweet spot: a premium by-the-glass pour.

Proletariat logo.jpgAre you a traditionalist who Insists on seeing the bottle before you order a glass? No problem. Proletariat provides restaurants with etched carafes. But that almost misses the point. With the wine in a five-gallon keg (a standard 1/6th barrel size), there's no spoilage, no waste, no barrier between the wine and the cutsomer's glass.

Expect a generous, six-ounce pour of white to cost $10, a glass of red to run $14 or $15.

Proletariat has nine wines at this point, starting with a superb sauvignon blanc from the Wahluke Slope. There's also an excellent pinot noir from Oregon's Archery Summit Vineyard, and a Bordeaux blend from four vineyards in the Walla Walla region. Daniel's Broiler liked the cabernet sauvignon so much they bought the whole lot.

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