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Tips from the Top on Planning a Wine Dinner

  • Don’t stint on serving staff; allow one server per tabletop of ten.
  • Speak to your wine vendors about up-and-coming wineries that may wish to gain greater exposure in your market area.
  • Connect with trade associations from other wine-producing countries and align your events with their expositions or promotional campaigns scheduled in or near your location.
  • Keep a watchful eye on the calendar of trade shows and other events in your area that often attract winemakers. Explore opportunities to piggyback on these to schedule visiting experts.
  • Tie your event to other festive or seasonal happenings in your area; gain publicity by connecting with the organizers of these events.
  • Allow plenty of lead time to build an audience for your event.
  • Look at significant developments in the wine and food industries that may serve as an angle upon which to promote your event (examples of such themes include organic grapes, unsung grape varieties, all-female winemakers, et cetera).
  • Connect with wine groups in your area that maintain their own cellar. (Jean-Francois Meteigner has found this route to be successful, bringing new people into La Cachette, his Los Angeles restaurant; he charges $90 to $110 per person, plus a corkage fee of $10 to $15.)
  • Brainstorm with your chef and kitchen staff for unusual and provocative pairings based on seasonal or ethnic foods. (Anish Kapoor, owner of five Akbar of India restaurants in the Los Angeles area, has claimed a wine and food pairing territory where other owners of strictly ethnic restaurants have barely trod. He has introduced diners of his contemporary Indian fare to the unexpected pleasures of tasting Sonoma Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Bordeaux-style blends with his tandoori specialties and masala-spiced cuisine.)
  • For added promotional value from local press, consider staging a wine-maker dinner with wineries in your area or nearby states.
  • Build a database of regular customers by capturing contact information on a questionnaire or through whichever reservation system you use. Saddle Peak Lodge’s Tratter says, “Through our electronic newsletter, we are able to reach 3,800 potential customers who would be likely attendees at our wine-maker dinners. This list has been a god-send in filling tables at these events.”
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