The Village Pub

A Silicon Valley mainstay builds a cellar deep in Burgundy
Harvey Steiman
Issue: August 31, 2013

There's not much that's pubby about The Village Pub. In 2001 a team led by restaurateur Tim Stannard and chef Mark Sullivan revamped this historic space near the town hall in Woodside, Calif., a leafy suburb of San Francisco on the edge of Silicon Valley, into a destination restaurant.

Wealthy customers from the tech world encouraged owner the Bacchus group to stock the cellar with gems. According to sommelier Michael Acheson, locals on weekends spend about $80 a bottle, but during the week, venture capitalists and movers and shakers from the digital world average $200. One recently shelled out nearly $6,700 for a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 2006.

"Silicon Valley is in a big up cycle these days. We've been able to hit the gas pedal the last three years and go for it," says Andrew Green, who started the wine program and now mentors sommeliers and monitors the wine programs in all of the group's restaurants, which include Best of Award of Excellence-winning Spruce in San Francisco. "We sell a lot of wine, and that creates the money to keep investing in the wine list."

Set in a quiet shopping center, the clubby dining rooms, adorned with photographs of Bay Area fog, have a comfortable, retro look. Executive chef Dmitry Elperin makes lavish use of produce from Bacchus group's nearby 5-acre organic farm. A heady mix of spring peas and sorrel served with halibut and pork belly brightened up Lanson Champagne Brut ($15 a glass) on a recent visit. Elperin favors clean flavors in simple presentations, but every dish has an interesting twist, such as grilling of sweetbreads over wood or the addition of dates to a mix of root vegetables.

The cellar, which started with a modest 250 listings, has been consistently deepened and expanded, growing from 1,300 selections in 2010 to today's 2,800. Its greatest strengths are Burgundy and Bordeaux, along with a savvy selection of hard-to-find California and other New World wines.

Big spenders can drop $5,200 on Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1976 or go for a classic claret such as Château Margaux 1959 ($2,600). Value-seekers can discover Domaine Follin-Arbelet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Fichots 2010 ($80) or Paul Jaboulet Aîné St.-Péray Les Sauvagères 2011 ($70).

The list's New World side offers deep verticals of Aubert and Marcassin Chardonnays from California, Shea Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Leonetti Cabernets from Washington and big-ticket California Cabernets such as Ridge Monte Bello, Phelps Insignia, Bond and Diamond Creek in as many as 15 vintages.

There are 30 by-the-glass offerings and 100 wines available in half-bottles. Other pages list 125 large-format wines, a selection of 85 wines priced under $80 a bottle, and 30 Madeiras by the glass dating back to a Barbeito Bual 1863 ($150).

The cellar splays over three closet-size rooms and a series of wine lockers. "Every time the chef abandons a corner of the kitchen, we commandeer it for wine," Acheson laughs. "But we have some cash allotted for more off-site storage later this year."

Boxes stacked on cellar floors hold wines sold at retail prices to customers who want to take home exclusive bottlings such as a Pinot Noir from WillaKenzie in Oregon, a red from Mas de Daumas Gassac in France or a Riesling from Josef Rosch in Germany, and to attendees at winemaker dinners who want to buy the rare bottlings they tasted at the meal. Now, when the sommeliers sample wines patrons might like, even if they would not be appropriate for the big list, customers can buy them at retail. It has become a $340,000-a-year business.

Stannard knew what a good wine program looked like before founding Village Pub. In the 1990s he oversaw PlumpJack's expansion from a modest retail shop in San Francisco to a restaurant group and a celebrated Napa Valley winery.

"I want our sommeliers to have a point of view, be passionate about the wines on the list, but talk to the chef and make sure it synchronizes with the food," Stannard says. "It's about what the guests want to eat and drink, not collecting a bunch of wines only the sommeliers like."

THE VILLAGE PUB

2967 Woodside Road, Woodside, Calif.
Telephone (650) 851-9888
Website www.thevillagepub.net

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