Friday, February 8, 2019

The Mind Of A Sommelier: Bruno Marini

(Check out my Introduction to the The Mind of a Sommelier series.)

Bruno Marini is the Director of Food and Beverage at Chopps American Bar and Grill, located at the Burlington Marriott. I've previously given raves to Chopps and it was one of my Top 50 Restaurants of 2018. I believe it is under-appreciated, worthy of far more attention than it receives. I've had the pleasure of meeting Bruno on multiple occasions at Chopps, including at some of their excellent wine dinners. If you've never been to Chopps, it is time for you to check it out.

Bruno Marini graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 1991, and gained experience working at famed restaurants Biba and Pignoli. In 1997,  he stepped into his first General Manager position at the high-end fusion-style eatery, Ambrosia, where he oversaw the restaurant’s growth and development alongside their celebrated chef and owner, Anthony Ambrose. In 2000, Marini assumed the role of General Manager at The Federalist, a French restaurant with an esteemed wine program, which encompassed an impressive collection of more than 32,000 bottles and 2,700 selections of fine and rare wines. In 2015, Marni joined the team at Chopps American Bar and Grill and currently serves at the Director of Food and Beverage of Pyramid Hotel Group Boston.

Now, onto the Interview:

What term do you use to describe yourself: Sommelier, Wine Steward, Wine Director, something else?
I prefer Wino, but Wine Director would be appropriate.

Please give a brief description of the wine list at your restaurant.
We have over 375 selections of wine – well-balanced selections of full and half bottles representing California, Italy, Pacific North West and a sprinkle of French, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

What are your objectives with the wine list?
To cater to our guests. It’s not about what I like to drink, it’s about what the guests are looking for and offering them a quality list at a solid value.

How often does the wine list change?
We maintain a consistent list. We update vintages on a regular basis and revise the wines by the glass 2-3 times a year.

Are there omissions on your wine list you would like to fill?
We try to keep our placements reflective of items that sell, but we are always looking for new additions from our guests’ recommendations.

How do you learn about new wines?
Well, I’m not a wine geek so I don’t go to tastings or belong to wine clubs, but I meet with my wine vendors on a regular basis to see what’s new in the market. I am also very fortunate to have close relationships with winemakers and owners, so I love to get the inside scoop on new releases or trends.

What is your strategy on pricing the wines on your list?
Be fair, competitive, offer deals and don’t be obnoxious when possible. I review wine lists in the area and try to stay at least 12-18% cheaper. Wine lists are usually marked up 2.7-3.2 times the cost of wine and you will find that there are some great deals on our list.

What is the most common wine question asked by your guests?
“Will this go with what I am eating” or better yet, “Will I like it?”

What is the most common criticism you receive from guests about your list?
I’d say if there is one thing, it would be not having a very specific wine that someone visiting is looking for. We try to maintain a very friendly wine list, this means there is wine that has name recognitions and hits all price points.

What is your greatest challenge as a sommelier?
Consistently educating staff about new wines, changing trends, and what to offer guests for the best dining experience. 

Tell me about 1 or 2 of the most unique wines on your list?
A rock star Sonoma wine maker is Clay Mauritson. He is young and an innovator. He is known for his Zin from Rock Pile but makes a series of Single Soil Cabs called Loam, Positas and Suther. Also, any wine from Realm is super unique.

Tell me about 1 or 2 of your favorite wines on your list?
Wow! Tough one, but I really enjoy wines from Gaja-Italian and Kelleher Family-Napa.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your wine list, your work as a sommelier, or wine service? 
I am proud to have created & managed the 1st Grand Award-Winning Wine list in Boston for 5 years straight. At the time only 83 restaurants in the world had the award given by Wine Spectator. Now, Grill 23 & Bar has that award and I could not be prouder for them. I was also fortunate to make, bottle and sell my own wine with legendary wine maker Su Ha Newton of Newton Vineyards in Napa. Our current wine list is friendly, extensive, familiar and reasonably priced and I hope our guests enjoy the selections.

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