Monday, April 27, 2009

A Passion for Food and Wine is Essential

We continue to get really nice compliments about our staff so I thought I’d use this time in the blog to tell you a bit about what we do to get them ready and wine knowledgeable.

First and foremost it starts with the hiring process. When someone comes to us looking to work as a server, we look for 2 major traits first: passion for food and wine, and second: a passion to be in the service business. You might think we look for someone who has vast wine knowledge. Not so. We are more concerned that they love food and wine. We narrow down our selection to usually 2 candidates and then the management team does a group interview. We get to see the candidate answer questions from 4 people and see how they handle themselves in a group setting. This is what they will be doing every day. If they shine here and can handle the team, chances are good they will do well on the floor.

Once we give the nod to bring them on, they go through a month of training on wine education. They will taste every wine on the wine list. Vincent sits with them every day and they discuss and taste 6 to 8 wines a day. We ask them to take detailed notes and gain an understanding through outside research on where our wines are from and a bit about the region of origin. After the month of tasting they will “shadow” a server or our floor manager, Liz. They will assist with table service and usually by week 5 be ready to fly solo. Every server must be able to talk about any of our wines and provide an experience to the guest that is far more than taking orders and delivering food.

Periodically, as new wines come in Vincent tastes the entire staff and they discuss region of origin of each. Every month during an all staff meeting we focus on training and making sure everyone is up to date on new additions and deletions to the wine list. We work on sequence of service and focus on areas the management team observes needs to be reinforced or tweaked.

Most of you are probably not aware that for 4 years now we have volunteered to be visited twice a month by “secret shoppers”. Our staff does not know who these folks are and we receive detailed reports each month on both visits. We were involved in the design of the feedback questionnaire so the response details how well our staff delivers the Mercy experience to our guests. Each questionnaire is individually reviewed with the server and we use these results for ongoing training.

We are committed to ongoing improvement. It is our goal to deliver a great experience to our guests every time. We strive for sustained excellence and our commitment to hiring passionate people. Ongoing training is important to ensuring you have wonderful experience every time you visit us.

Glen Agritelley

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spotlight on Lauren Whitener

This month I'd like to take a little bit of time to talk about Mercy artist, Lauren Whitener. I first was introduced to Lauren through our mutual producer Josh Goode while I was looking to expand the roster of artists at Mercy. I was immediately impressed with her jazz vocals and as she has been performing small venues and wineries throughout Dallas, Grapevine, Ft Worth, and Garland it was only a matter of time until we brought her to Addison.

Atlanta native, Lauren grew up singing throughout high school and various church functions. However, it wasn't until the fall of 2006 that she decided to move to Dallas and pursue singing as a career. Her backing band is a stellar combination of seasoned musicians including, Texas guitar veteran Tommy Nash who has played almost every venue under the sun with acts such as The Dixie Chicks, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Dave Alexander.

Lauren will be performing this Saturday April 25th at Mercy with her backing band starting at 9pm. Mainly influenced by jazz and lounge music, her set will include everything from Ray Charles to Nina Simone to Frank Sinatra. So please join us on Saturday and be sure to get here early to secure a spot close to the stage.

Liz Williams
Live Music Director

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tips for the New Wine Shopper

One of the things people most often ask me is how to buy wine. This blog is dedicated to helping you become not only comfortable, but truly enjoy the process!

Shop consistently.

Meaning, choose a wine shop and do the majority of your shopping there. When deciding on your shop take into consideration that every wine shop is different. Whether it be selection, focus, or pricing structure you need to figure out what will fit your needs. Look for a store that offers knowledgeable staff who is interested in helping you. That way you can trust their recommendations more closely when choosing something new.

Have a plan

This will limit your potential frustration and aid in keeping you from getting bogged down by the numerous regions, varietals, prices, etc. I recommend setting out armed with a price point, style, and potential pairing. Try to narrow down what you are looking for and don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions.

Price does not equal quality

While there are certainly wines out there that deserve an expensive price tag, cost doesn’t necessarily translate into quality! Wines today are increasingly priced according to start-up costs of the winery. If you are working within a budget focus on regions that are lesser known or well-established such as Spain, South America, or Lalande-de-Pomerol.

Buy discounted wine
Many wine shops offer a 10% discount on wine sold by the case, mixed or not. Look for any close-out specials or wines on sale. Just because it's discounted doesn’t mean it's bad! One of the best ways to track sales and close-outs is by signing up for on the shop's email list; you may be surprised at how much you can save.

Be willing to experiment and have fun.

It’s not a test and it’s ok if you don’t love every bottle you take home. It’s about the journey… enjoying! It’s just a matter of time before you happen upon a new favorite wine or region and that is a priceless discovery!

Happy shopping!

Jacqueline Thain

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Discovering and Understanding Red Wine

If you’re like most people, discovering and understanding red wine can pose an interesting challenge for your pallet. Many new wine drinkers generally seek wines that are on the sweet side. That is because most people have a decidedly sweet tooth, having been raised on sodas, candy and chocolate as their normal sweetness level.

As a bit of background, the tannic, leathery flavor of red wine comes from the red grape skins. Most grape "insides" are white in color. So a red wine that only uses the skins briefly during winemaking, like a “white zinfandel”, is going to generally be less tannic and more on the sweet side. It will also be light in color, since the color comes from the grape skins. Conversely, a wine that sits on the skins for a long time during winemaking will end up darker in color, more tannic and healthier. That's because many of the health compounds in a wine come from its skin. So the aim here is to slowly train your tongue to get used to those more tannic flavors, so you can move from the pink colored wines to darker colored wines.

Many of our guests at Mercy consistently ask for a sweet red wine. In the world of wine, the word sweet isn't the same as sweet like candy. There are a few red wines that are definitely on the sweet side, like dessert and port wines, but traditionally, a sweeter red wine is fruity rather than sweet. So what they are really asking for is a fruity red wine.

Well, well, well, ladies and gentlemen we have it!

St. Clair Zinfandel 2006 out of New Mexico

This is the perfect medium body wine. Low in acid with a friendly bouquet, dressed in a sweet squirt of velvety tannin. Your senses will be exposed to the rich flavors of blackberries and ripe, dark cherries with a hint of cola. Beautifully paired with a blackened ahi tuna or our fantastic tuna tartar, it’s definitely an outstanding first approach to training your pallet to reds.

You can experience this wine for $11/glass or $35/bottle

Vincent Havard