Thursday, April 2, 2009

Of bold faced names and even bolder wine prices

I suppose it’s fitting that my first blog post should be about money. It’s top of mind for most people these days. Except, perhaps, for Richard Gere. (More on that shortly.) I’m thinking specifically, about the price of wine in restaurants. Although wine retailers have dropped their prices- some dramatically so – a lot of restaurant wine prices seemed to have stayed pretty much the same as they were in the pre-Madoff, pre-AIG bailout days. There are some exceptions, to be sure- but then there are the wine prices of The Farmhouse in Bedford, New York, a restaurant owned by Richard Gere. This newish restaurant (it opened a few months ago) is said to be a favorite haunt of locals like Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren, who ride their horses right up to the door. It's certainly a good-looking place in a suburban equestrian style and the food is pretty fair. But the wine prices are, in a word, outrageous. Given the job of ordering a "decent reasonably priced wine" for a table of eight, I combed the list several times, looking for something that might fit my host's request ... and found a bottle of 2007 Jolivet Sancerre for $77- and that was one of the cheapest white wines on the list. (No, I didn't buy it; I opted for an $85 FX Pichler Gruner Veltliner.)

Had Gere's last few movies made so little money he was looking to make it up on sales of Sancerre? Or had Loire Valley wine prices skyrocketed recently? Coincidentally, I ran into Jolivet's importer a few days after that dinner. I told him the story of the restaurant's prices and professed to be shocked. How much was the wholesale price of Jolivet anyway? I asked. About $200, he said, reduced to $180 with a five-case purchase. In other words, Gere's getting more than six times his bottle cost. Well, that has to be a much better return than than most of Hollywood is getting these days.


  1. Hello,
    Thanks for exposing an outrageous markup on a wine list. The one wine story I wrote for Food & Wine many moons ago gave me some insight into what's considered fair and proper in wine lists pricing. And how many restaurants have a sliding scale of how much they mark up, especially with pricier bottles in order to make them affordable. Not a policy in place "down on the Farm" apparently. It's great that RG co-chairs events that benefit the homeless, ( and perhaps his attitude is if you can still afford to live (and ride horses) in Bedford you can take whatever markup a restaurant wants to dish out.

    Love the blog,
    Monica F

  2. Way to bust 'em babe!

  3. Being fairly new to the wine industry I am amazed at how "random" the pricing structure seems to be in the industry. We produce a very small production pinot noir from the sonoma coast which we sell retail starting at $100 per bottle. We do not use a distributor so there is no "middle man" and we have seen our wine priced anywhere from $100 to $225 per bottle. This is our passion. We put in all of the back breaking labor and the restaurant or wine shop is making all of the money. We have not wanted to raise our prices as our wine is very expensive to produce because of its handmade nature. Our vineyard is planted 3X3 spacing which requires everything to be hand tended and adds greatly to our expense. We have been told our wine is an exceptional value for the quality you are tasting. We believe in being fair in our pricing, it's too bad the restaurants don't get more real and pass on these values to their customers to build loyalty.