By Jim Boyce | Restaurant chain Element Fresh and California Wine Institute (CWI) have teamed up for an ambitious six-week promotion in China. Starting Saturday, all 38 Element Fresh stores will feature dozens of Californian wines by the glass or bottle. The wines hail from places as diverse as Napa Valley, Sonoma, Lodi and Santa Barbara.
CWI China head Chris Beros called it a good match given the food focus at Element Fresh.
“Their menu is very consistent with California cuisine,” said Beros. “A lot of fresh ingredients, not a lot of over-processed foods, an orientation toward a healthy lifestyle.”
The program gives restaurant managers flexibility to tap their respective markets, said Andy Minoie of Element Fresh. “Each restaurant is working on its own plans.”
His wine menu for the Sanlitun restaurant in Beijing has six California options by the glass from April 15 to May 6. Those include Beringer Zinfandel at rmb58 and Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc at rmb65. Things switch up from May 7 to May 31 with a new slate of wines, such as Fess Parker Riesling for rmb58 and Duckhorn Decoy Sauvignon Blanc for rmb62.
Bottle options include Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay at rmb230, DeLoach Pinot Noir at rmb260, Bogle Petite Syrah at rmb375 and St Supery Sauvignon Blanc at rmb650. See the full menu.
Beros cited strong response to the project from California wineries, with over 225 wines submitted for consideration.
“The senior management team of Element Fresh and our China team got together over three nights, taking five hours per night minimum, to taste the wines,” he said. The goal was to find good wines that offered value.
“The process of tasting so many wines over three days was tough because are just so many great ones to choose from,” said Minoie.
Staff are not expected to have comprehensive knowledge of each wine but will be given “cheat sheets” to help explain them to customers, said Beros. “We worked with the company to curate the tasting notes.”
Element Fresh opened its first store, in the Shanghai Center, in 2002. The company now has 38 restaurants, including in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Tianjin and Wuhan.
The partnership with Element Fresh is the latest initiative by CWI, which also recently started its second master class wine tour of China, following a 21-city program that ran from mid-2015 to mid-2016. See here and here.