Randy Caparoso


Bruce Neyers (Proprietor, Neyers Vineyards):
Those who meet Randy Caparoso quickly grow to admire his candid and intellectual approach to the wine business. As a former partner of the Roy’s restaurant group in Hawai’i, he’s thought to be almost solely responsible for bringing a brilliant, fine wine program to the Islands, and playing an important role in the movement of fusion cuisine that has spread throughout
the world. He went on to help establish Roy’s as a prominent national restaurant chain before embarking on a career as a writer and consultant on the move, and can take credit for a number of creative wine programs around the country.

Ronn Wiegand, MW, MS (Publisher, Restaurant Wine):
Randy Caparoso was one of the country's most innovative and articulate wine directors. He consistently pushed the envelope at Roy's and established new standards for wine program excellence in a multi-unit company. Equally important, he always accomplished this with a firm eye on the bottom line and a desire to increase his customers' satisfaction in the dining experience.

Doug Frost, MW, MS (President/Industry Consultant, Strong Water):
Randy is the consummate wine professional - brilliant, passionate, totally dedicated and a great contributor to our industry.

Larry Stone, MS (Owner/Grower, Lingua Franca):
In my estimation Randy Caparoso is one of the most dedicated and imaginative professionals working in the world today. His achievements at Roy's were synonymous with the rise of chef Roy Yamaguchi himself

Evan Goldstein, MS (President, Full Circle Wine Solutions):
Randy has had one of the most creative on-premise styles that I have worked with over the years. His palate is solid and he always seems to have his finger on the pulse of what's happening and what makes his customers happy.

Rob Constantino (Managing Editor, Santé):
Randy Caparoso is the wine professional's professional. He was our first Santé Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year because his exciting, innovative, ever-changing wine program was an industry model that influenced top sommeliers and restaurateurs around the world. By combining his thorough understanding of food-and-wine with an unflagging enthusiasm for searching out the new, he has enhanced the dining experience of thousands.

Catherine Fallis, MS (Founder/President, Planet Grape; Educator, Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley):
In the nearly twenty years that I've known him, Randy has challenged me, as he has challenged many others, to work harder, to raise the bar, and to set rather than follow the trends. Randy Caparoso is like genius in motion.

Rebecca Chapa, DWS, CWE (Educator, Tannin Management; Wine by the Class, Society of Wine Educators):
Randy Caparoso is probably the most innovative wine buyer I know. His knack for wine and food pairing is unprecedented, and he has the ability to manage a large wine program without being overly rigid. He is also as dedicated and loyal as anyone I know; and above all, he truly relishes the business of wine.

Wilfred Wong (Chief Storyteller, wine.com):
Randy is one of the top guys in the wine industry with a background that encompasses the globe. His understanding of the synergy of food and wine is unsurpassed, and on top of that he has a great eye for quality.

Jim Kopp (Director of National Accounts, The Thornhill Companies):
Randy is one of the few individuals I know in the industry who has had the courage to stick to his convictions and step outside the box in the promotion of wine and food. A creative soul whose mission has been not to impress but to deliver, Randy has always used his skills to build wine programs that add value to the restaurant concept through an ability to complement menus, spark a consumer's interest in something new, and deliver quality at a value.

Chuck Furuya, MS (Partner, Sansei Restaurant Group, Hawai'i):
Randy Caparoso is one of the industry's most talented professionals. He has an innate ability to pair wines with dynamic, eclectic, contemporary style foods, which he does with incredible imagination, and an acute sense of tastes and textures.

Kermit Lynch (Wine Merchant, Author of Adventures on the Wine Route):

Almost thirty years ago it was notoriously difficult to find anything decent to eat in Hawai'i. I was there on vacation and had reached the desperation stage. In a little wine shop near my hotel in Honolulu, I asked if there wasn’t at least one restaurant serving edible food.

“Why don’t you try Roy’s?” came the answer, so I got the family in a taxi and off we went.

At the table, I opened the wine list first, as usual. My wife told me I looked like a cartoon character, with my eyes bulging out of their sockets. There, on the wine list, in Hawai'i, obtainable, was the Savennières from Château d’Epiré, one of my favorite dry whites, but unknown, esoteric, hard to sell. What the hell was it doing in Hawai'i?

I roamed down the list and saw all sorts of unusual selections from France. But not just any wines; these were the dangerous ones. I asked the waiter if the wine buyer was on the premises, and that’s how I met Randy Caparoso. We became friends and he spread the word about a lot of my rather obscure wine imports. He loves making discoveries as much as I do, so we hit it off.

What is a good palate? In my experience, every palate is different. The person who can identify ten Bordeaux châteaux in a blind tasting may not be able to tell which are good and which are banal. I have never met the perfect palate, one that comprises all the tasting skills and talents.

What sets Randy apart? First, his open-mindedness. He appreciates diversity; in fact he adores diversity, and can appreciate all styles from all the world’s wine regions. That is a great virtue, because it means that his palate is not deformed by preconceptions.

Secondly, he is a master at wine and food combinations. At Roy’s he has regaled me with combinations that had me stunned by their perfection and unpredictability. This talent comes from an incredible imagination, which allows him to foresee how a certain wine might act alongside a certain plate; and his powers of analysis, breaking down wines and dishes into their important components so that his imagination has something to work with.

contact randy caparoso


Email: randycaparoso@earthlink.net

Phone: (209) 642-6882

Home Page: Culinary Wine & Food Adventures
Restaurant Consulting: Wine List Consulting Unlimited

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What really bugs guests...

If, like me, you have always been impressed by restaurateur Danny Meyer’s success with guest response cards – which in Setting the Table he says truly helps “connect the dots” between operations and customer needs – it might make sense to stop and take a good, hard look at what people really think about the way we sell wine in restaurants.

Recently in Wine 2.0™, one of the more popular wine social networking sites populated primarily by wine enthusiasts, I posted a question that generated over seventy responses: what’s your biggest pet peeve about drinking wine in restaurants? Most of the replies cite issues we’ve always been aware of. So the question is really: what do we actually do about them?

Compiled in Zagat style bites, this should give you an idea of the feelings of discontent out there...

Wine Prices:
... pricing, pricing, pricing – is a list a museum or sales tool?
... I have had the opportunity to travel across the U.S. and eat out in the finest restaurants, but it is always appalling when wine lists are overpriced – restaurants who “get it” give value to their customer base and drive additional wine sales and repeat customers
… excessively high 3 x retail prices are bad enough, but I’ve seen 4 x retail, which is just silly
... trying to augment the lost income on food items by jacking up
the vino
… gouging customers with 400% markups over retail – come on!

Wine Selections:
... the kind of wine list where it is obvious they are being fed by a very large distributor that shall remain nameless … generic lists at restaurants that should know better – I want to see that you put some thought going into your selections and that they go with your food, not that you let a distributor sell you all wines they have the best deals on so that your markup can go even higher
… Franco-centric wine lists outside of France, brand-centric wines everywhere else, and New World cheap-and-cheerful wine lists really bug me (would people get over their fascination with Bordeaux and Burgundy and learn that there is so much more out there?
... I’d like to see more BRAVE sommeliers and restaurant owners who include food-friendly wines of Austria and Portugal.

Big Lists:
... big chunky list is just an ego boost for the restaurant to say how much money they have to throw around – a fun, pioneering wine list that doesn’t take itself seriously would have my vote.


Wine List Descriptions:
... wine lists that focus on knowledge of an in-house wine person at the cost of intimidating paying guests … getting more direction on the wine list – most of the time I would appreciate more information … I like lists that give me a little hint of what I’m in for when I get the wine, just in case the staff isn’t up on their research … wine lists need to have tasting notes or it becomes a great crap shoot, and who likes crap shoots with expensive wines on important occasions?

Wine Glasses:
... cheap glassware
… clunky glassware that can be used as a club
… even in the middle of California’s wine regions there are small restaurants that serve every wine in this half sized glass – this drives me nuts!
... wines served in a glass that comes straight from a dishwasher – meaning the glass is hot, and the wine ends up like grapey tea (this is happened to me more than once, and waiters look at me like I’m a lunatic for sending the wine back…)
… Riedel’s restaurant range isn’t that expensive, is versatile and quite sturdy (and I’m sure other manufacturers have similar) – why more restaurants don’t use them is beyond me … it’s so lame when restaurants serve in “table glasses” (i.e. crappy Ikea cups…) and say “they do this in Italy.”

Wines by the Glass:
... over-priced commercial wines (i.e. supermarket) in crappy glasses
… corked or oxidized wines in wine bars (can’t they check before serving?)
… restaurants that have sold their soul to the “by-the-glass” demon (by offering only) Beringer, Robert Mondavi, White Zinfandel from Sutter Home, and sparkling by Cook’s
… restaurants that pour from a bottle having no idea how long it’s been open or if it’s been stored correctly
…. when you buy a nice glass, and it tastes like a bottle has been open a week and a half.

Serving Temperatures:
... more annoying is when the temperature is way too warm on reds and too cold on whites – ugh
… I hate it when restaurants serve red wine too warm
… reds too warm is worse than whites too cold
… nothing like a nice red that tastes like it’s been stored just above the exhaust fan above the bar’s ice maker.


Wine/Food Suggestions:

... I wish more restaurants would offer wine suggestions with their menu items – it surprises me how few restaurants take this extra step
… large, unfocused wine lists that don’t pair with food menus.

Pouring:
... staff overfilling the glass
... I hate it when they fill your glass too full, so you can’t properly swirl.

Servers:
... I hate arrogant or condescending wait staff
my pet peeve is a bit feminist, but they always pour the taste to the man – why doesn’t my opinion matter because I’m a woman?
... it bugs me when the waitress cannot pronounce Chianti…
... I
understand I’m 23 and that many people my age don’t know wine, but a condescending stare is unnecessary when I ask for a wine list because the wait staff hasn’t given it to me (reminds me of a time when I ordered a Dry Creek Zinfandel and the somm looked at me and said, “you know it’s not pink, don’t you?"
... the bait-and-switch – you see a nice bottle from a great vintage at a reasonable price, but the server brings you either a different (almost always poorer) vintage, or a different bottle entirely, and says “it’s really the same"
... poor training by the management – I don’t blame servers who haven’t been trained, but once in a New York restaurant I was brought back the wrong brand, and then wrong vintage, by a server THREE times in a row!


Sommeliers:
... a wine stewards who poo-poos a wine you brought or tells you he disagrees with your selection
... sommelier hard-sell
... someone pointing you to a plus-$200 bottle when they have no indication you are remotely in that price range.

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"I fought against the bottle," as Leonard Cohen wrote, "but I had to do it drunk"... specializing in wine as a restaurateur, retailer, wine judge, journalist, frequent flyer and mental traveler. But to me, wine is a food like a rose is a rose. So why all the fuss? Currently: Editor-at-Large/Bottom Line Columnist, The SOMM Journal; Contributing Editor, The Tasting Panel. Awards: Sante's Wine & Food Professional of the Year (1998); Restaurant Wine's Wine Marketer of the Year (1992 & 1999); Academy of Wine Communications (commendation) for Excellence in Wine Writing and Encouragement of Higher Industry Standards; Electoral College Member, Vintners Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone.