For the last couple years, I have struggled to find a new wine distributor in the Chicago area who would handle our wines. In today’s wine world, if you aren’t producing upward of 10,000 cases of wine per year (I make less than 1,000 cases), the major distributors aren’t interested in your wines. The distributors feel that small production companies can’t bring economy of scale (low pricing) or brand identification to the relationship.
Lucky for us, about six months ago Mike Avella, general manager at the Luxbar in Chicago (a place Mrs. Tiedemann and I favor for weekend brunch), was kind enough to introduce me to Manfred Bauer of Wein-Bauer, Inc. and Wein-Bauer Distribution. We hit it off from the beginning. Manfred’s operation is family-oriented, as is mine. Manfred hails from Vienna, Austria, and came to the United States in the 1980s. We have had fun with our heritage: he is Austrian and I am of German decent. We were thrilled when Wein-Bauer agreed to represent our five wines in Chicago, New York City and western New Jersey.
- RELATED: The second Assemble for Adler benefit was a huge success, Sept. 29
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Manfred and I were invited to participate in the Semi-Annual Wine Locker Tasting at The Original Morton’s The Steakhouse in Chicago. This is a special event put on by all of the Morton’s Steakhouses for its VIP customers who are fortunate enough to have one of the restaurant’s on-site wine lockers.
The tastings are generally in April and September. They are designed for the wine locker patrons to be able to taste various wines, provided and poured by invited wine and spirits distributors. If the patron likes the wines, they can purchase them at a discount and stock their lockers. The Original Morton’s The Steakhouse has 48 wine lockers available. At the present time, all are spoken for and they have a waiting list.
It was a fun evening and somewhat successful for Tiedemann Wines. Manfred had selected seven wines for tasting at the event, including my Glenwood Cellars 2013 Pinot Noir and the 2011 Glenwood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t know the final sales totals, but I know that Elizabeth and Tim Simer purchased some of my wines for their locker. I got to meet Tim and Liz and share a glass of wine with them after the tasting was over. They live in the neighborhood and frequent Morton’s. I enjoyed our conversation about our personal wine cellars.
- RELATED: Dean & Deluca wine tasting in Napa was full of delicious wine, Sept. 29
I attended the same tasting in September last year at which seven distributors participated. That evening, the attendance was fairly low. At this recent tasting, they had five distributors participate. Attendance was again low, but was higher than the previous year.
It was good to see Raki Mehra, general manager at Morton’s, and assistant manager Curt Lotspeich (another northern German — as Manfred calls us). They are good guys who are dedicated to good food and customer service. I believe this gives them an edge in the ever-growing Chicago steakhouse market.
- RELATED: Wine tasting: 2004 Husic Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Aug. 31
Just out of curiosity, I searched “the number of steakhouses in Chicago” and after a little research, found Yelp lists 340 steakhouses in the pricing category they term “ultra-high-end” ($$$$). I take this to translate to when a filet costs $38 and up. With such a crowded market, the team at The Original Morton’s has to be on the top of their game all the time. I believe they are. So, the next time you are in Chicago and want a good steak, give them a try. The restaurant is at 1050 N. State St. When you get there, tell Raki hello for me.
Until next week,