Ernie Van Asperen, who died last month, set the restaurant business on its ear in the 1970s when he started selling wines in his two Marin County eateries at retail price.
The one I recall, the Dock in Tiburon, was often the first happy-hour stop for businessmen returning by ferry from working in San Francisco. Windjammer, named for Van Asperen's passion for yachting, had the same pricing policy.
Bay Area restaurateurs took a dim view of Van Asperen's pricing, but his reasoning was two-fold: He felt retail markup was a sufficient profit margin, and he knew that Marinites, living in an upscale wine-drinking community, would embrace the concept. He figured, too, that sales would soar, which they did, and that increased volume made up for the narrower margins. Asperen's wine sales reportedly increased 600 percent, according to a 1975 story in the New York Times.
Do you have a Wine Spectator magazine subscription? Save 50% on your Online Membership right now!
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions