An increasing number of wineries — big and small, locally and globally owned — are holding wine pairing dinners at restaurants across the country. SmartBrief’s Liz DeHoff recently talked with Ben Parsons, winemaker at Denver’s Infinite Monkey Theorem winery, about the wine pairing dinners it holds for its fans in partnership with local restaurants.
IMT does a lot of wine pairing meals, sometimes in collaboration with makers of other beverages. How do you arrange these dinners?
Being good friends with a lot of the local chefs, the idea to collaborate for a wine pairing dinner is usually brought up organically through conversation. It varies on who initiates the discussion, and sometimes it takes some time to align everyone’s schedule and find the right date. But it’s generally a joint effort.
We recently came to the conclusion that one wine dinner per month is ideal from an attendance standpoint. We had been doing more per month but learned that if you do too many it can cause too much competition between other restaurant wine dinners.
What sort of people do these dinners attract? Do you find that your wine club members attend often?
We always let everyone on our end know when we have upcoming events via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. The wine dinners draw a great crowd — lots of familiar faces with good support from our wine club members and lots of new faces that are fans of the restaurant and curious to try The Infinite Monkey Theorem. Generally speaking, there are a few social media guests (Westword, PR people, wine bloggers), a handful of wine club members, loyal restaurant followers, and a mix of new people who heard about the dinner through a friend or online.
How do you and the chef come up with the pairings?
Once the wine dinner date had been finalized, I work directly with the chef and wine buyer and we taste through all of our current releases to provide creative inspiration with regard to food pairings. It’s amazing how talented our local chefs are — they can taste a wine and come up with the perfect pairing right away based on the flavor profile and weight of the wine. The chef then creates the pairing menu that is handed off to the wine buyer, who provides all the details for the dinner to the winery.
How do wine pairing dinners benefit your winery?
Denver has a very knowledgeable scene of diners. Restaurants have great followings, and it’s crucial for the winery to play a part in that. By collaborating with different chefs and restaurants, we are introduced to a wide variety of people who are into good food and good wine. These dinners also allow us to tell our “story” and provide the diner with a new perspective on what our winery is really about rather than just picking our wine up from a shelf. Word of mouth is a strong selling point.
What advice would you give to other wineries interested in setting up pairing dinners with restaurants?
Be flexible with the restaurant’s needs and do your part; make sure that you can bring a crowd. However, it’s also crucial to the success of the dinner that the restaurant has a loyal following to help with attendance.