Grape Gab

The gold glint of chardonnay is tarnishing. Merlot is passé. Gad, even cabernet is sliding slightly in popularity. Syrah, pinot noir, pinot grigio (why does so much of it taste like two Bayer dissolved in Evian?) are ascendant. So are the wine-producing regions in Oregon and Washington. And Italy. France is down, maybe because of Franco snootiness, maybe because of a queasy dollar. This is just some of the trivia mined from Wine & Spirits magazine's 15th annual restaurant poll, a survey that probed some 2,112 restaurants across the nation. The survey generated 350 responses--a healthy 17 percent response rate. Dallas-Fort Worth respondents include Addison Café, Fogo de Chao, Chamberlain's Fish Market Grill, Popolos Café, Café Aspen and Lawry's The Prime Rib. Even The Riviera managed to get its 2 cents in before its belly went up. Though presentation of the poll results is a bit of a mess, there are a few findings of note. The top five labels are Cakebread, Sonoma-Cutrer, Jordan, Duckhorn and Santa Margherita (pinot grigio)--gee, there wasn't a Texan ranked in the whole top 50. That's weird, huh? Among the most compelling stats: Reds gulped up 60 percent of total wine sales in 2003, up from 46 percent in 1994; pinot grigio/gris took a 6 percent share of the top-selling wines, clipping sauvignon blanc's 5.8 percent; syrah punched out zinfandel in restaurant popularity; and chardonnay plummeted from roughly 40 percent of top-selling wines in the early '90s to 19 percent in 2003. But what's really baffling in this era of Atkins is this: While pasta/vegetables tripped in the most popular restaurant food rankings from 6.8 percent of the total to 5.6 percent between 2001 and 2003, beef tumbled from 25.9 percent to 14.8 percent over the same period. Say what? Have a drink.

Darryl Beeson, one-time cellar master of The Mansion on Turtle Creek and sommelier for Voltaire (remember that one?), has concluded his wine project at Steel Restaurant and is off to Grapevine. There he'll swirl and spit as sommelier at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan Resort. Anthony Martinez, formerly of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, will join Beeson in the cork-popping crafts...Could revolving be one of the "R's" in Triple R? Triple R Group, the restaurant company that brought Dallas Nikita and Tom Tom Noodle House, has announced it has nabbed former Liberty Noodles operating partner Chad Boyle to grip the helm at Nikita restaurant and bar. More interesting, the company pulled Michael Bratcher back into the Triple R fold as operations manager for the group's Dallas restaurants. An AquaKnox alumnus, Bratcher did his Triple R teething as opening general manager of Nikita before he detoured to Consilient Restaurants as general manager of Cuba Libre.


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