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Senior editor Alison Napjus joined Wine Spectator in 2000. She is the lead taster for Alsace, Beaujolais and Champagne and also tastes wines from regions throughout Italy.
Alison Napjus

Making the Best of Even the Smallest Wine List

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2007

Alison Napjus
Posted: April 23, 2010

Dinner the other night was at my boyfriend’s favorite local Italian restaurant. And while its appetizer of asparagus baked with pesto and parmesan makes my mouth water just to think of it, its wine list is tiny, with just a handful of reds and whites.

The tiny list became even smaller when the restaurant was out of the first two selections I made. Ultimately I left behind the Italian reds I had been thinking of and opted for the 2007 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Paso Robles region. The pairing of Italian food and Cali Cab gave me pause, but I knew Liberty School to be a solid producer and, a big bonus—the restaurant actually had this bottle!

Despite the oddball wine-and-food pairing, the Liberty School held up its end of the bargain. It showed pleasant dark berry and crème de cassis notes, with hints of spice and vanilla. It was medium-bodied, with a nice balance to the weight, modest tannins and subtle acidity. All around, a nice, easy-drinking Cabernet, which I rated 87 points, non-blind, with a nice, easy-drinking price tag. It was $35 a bottle on the list, and goes for about $10 at retail—very good for a Cali Cab.

WineSpectator.com members: Get our quick list of Top Values among California Cabernet.

David Peters
Mission Viejo, CA —  April 23, 2010 12:53pm ET
Alison, Sounds like a great place to eat, especially when with that special person. Just one constructive criticism; one of the biggest complaints I and my friends have is restaurant wine pricing. That Liberty School is a great 'value wine', I've had it myself. BUT at 250% mark-up I wouldn't feel like a valued patron. Now I wonder, am I too cheap or dining at the wrong establishment ?
David Mcelvain
Orlando, FL, USA —  April 23, 2010 2:28pm ET
At no time, by any stretch of the imagination, should Liberty School be $35. $25 at most and $8 BTG.
Tony Wood
Brighton U.K. —  April 24, 2010 5:55am ET
Hi Alison
So its not only the British that get "ripped off"in restaurants via wine list mark ups.
Dennis D Bishop
Shelby Twp., MI, USA —  April 25, 2010 7:18am ET
I am not a restaurant owner, nor am I associated with the industry. But I eat out quite often, and across the complete spectrum of restaurant types. I have found that the mark up on wine depends upon the restaurant. You should expect to pay more for great ambiance and service, also for having unique menu options, high end food, etc. I have found that medium to upscale restaurants tend to mark up wine $20 to $25 per bottle minimum. Once you get past the $25 (retail cost) wines, the mark up tends to be in the 100% to 150% range, moving into the $100 and above retail wines, the mark ups tend to be 100% and under. The "chain" restaurants like Applebees, Max and Erma's, Olive Garden, etc. will be more competitive with their standard fare, high production wines with mark ups in the 100% to 150% range. A $10.00 Columbia Crest Grand Estates will cost you about $20 at The Olive Garden.
I think that Alison made a great pick - it added to her restaurant experience..... and... who do you think picked up the tab?

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