Brad Haskel, wine director of London Lennies Seafood Restaurant in Rego Park, used them to describe the vision of successful California winemaker, Peter Franus. Franus came to Queens to provide an informal education on the ways of wine to London Lennies staff on Thursday, September 17. It fits in with Haskel’s philosophy that wine should be less intimidating and more fun for staff and patrons.
“A great glass of wine can make or break a customer’s dining experience,” Haskel said.
Franus, who grew up in Greenwhich, Connecticut, and attended U.C. Berkeley, visited wineries in Napa Valley and fell in love. He started his own label in 1987 and said that his mission is simple.
“If someone says this is delicious, I’ve achieved my goal,” he said.
Franus brought along five wines from his portfolio, including Sauvignon Blanc Carneros 2008, Zinfandel Brandlin Vineyards 2006, Mourvedre Brandlin Vineyard 2005, Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2005, Merlot Napa Valley 2006, and Red Wine Napa Valley 2005.
Each of the wines is popular in its own way, but the Zinfandel has achieved notoriety from an unlikely source.
Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek and most recently Professor X in X-Men, tasted the Zinfandel at a wine bar while working on Broadway and contacted Franus about where he could buy more of it. Stewart went as far as to approach a London winery about importing the Zinfandel, and Franus will be debuting it across the Atlantic in October.
Franus says that he wants his wines to represent the upper echelon of what wines can be, but with one important caveat.
“People are not willing to pay $70 to $80 for a bottle of wine anymore,” he said. “The days of starting a winery and coming out with a $100 bottle of wine are over.”
This is why his popular Zinfandel is $35 a bottle. His Merlot is $35 and his Mouvedre is $45. The most expensive bottle he brought along was the Red Wine Napa Valley 2005, which is priced at $65.
Franus shared his stories about getting into the wine business and about his philosophy when it comes to wine. He says he’s not a science guy.
“I make the wine based on how I’m feeling and thinking,” he said.
But the best story of the day wasn’t told by Franus at all. His wife, Deanna, told of how she and her friend tasted the 1997 Carneros Sauvignon Blanc while out to dinner one night, and loved it so much that they went to visit the winery in Napa Valley. Franus gave them a tour and they were married soon thereafter.
“Do you see the responsibility you have when you recommend a wine?” Deanna said, punctuating the story amidst the rising laughs of staff members.