• Vanguard Wines


Matt Connor,CS, CSW, Columbus Area Representative 

Right now, people are shopping for collectibles, gifts, or celebratory bottles and they’re willing to spend more for something slightly higher end. It’s no secret that we believe one of the best values for quality wine can be found with Barolos. Nebbiolo is a lovely wine for colder months, and it rewards cellaring. 

As far as my top picks for the season, Favia out of Napa makes excellent collectible wine. Andy Erickson and Annie Favia have impressive resumes working under and for some of the region’s most celebrated labels and vintners. Available only through distributors like Vanguard Wines, their Carbone Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are designed for early drinking.

How long have you been with Vanguard Wines? 

I just celebrated seven years. Before I began with the company, I worked in restaurants and obtained my sommelier certification. I knew I wanted to keep working in the industry, and this role allows me to blend my passion for wine with my experience in front of house/Beverage Director positions. I find that my background is an asset when meeting with customers because I understand their priorities and concerns when we’re creating their on-premise wine lists. 

Why is it important for all members of a restaurant team, not just the sommelier, to have wine knowledge?

My customers and I always talk about how valuable it can be to get the entire team on board with the wine and beverage program. Let’s say the buyer or sommelier is with another guest or off during a particular shift, this doesn’t need to equate to a lost sale. There’s a benefit to educating the team, even on a basic level, about how to recommend and sell wine as a way to increase guest cheques. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to go out and get their CSW or become a sommelier. But, they can learn to tell great stories about where the wine came from or the family that produces it, which can pique interest. 

What is your approach to educating teams on wine?

We offer to conduct staff tastings and trainings to help them become more comfortable with wine. It helps when they’re reminded that selling wine can be a money-maker. We often start by talking about basic pairings; for example, they can begin to suggest varietals like a sparkling wine to complement starter salads or a red blend to pair with their steaks.

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