Beverage Director Emily Molinari had two months to build the wine lists at six dining venues (plus a wine bar) inside Eataly’s second New York City location. Time was not on her side.
“You end up trusting your gut,” Molinari says, of the rapid-fire decisions she had to make before the August 11 opening date of Eataly Downtown in the Westfield World Trade Center. SevenFifty—launched in 2012—saved her. Using the app, it’s easy to research and order wines and other alcoholic beverages, which are arranged in niche categories, including by distributor, region, varietal, and attributes like being biodynamic and organic. “It gives you a fuller picture of what’s in the market,” says SevenFifty co-founder Aaron Sherman.
“Once I laid the groundwork for the vision for which grapes to feature, it was easy to realize that vision,” says Molinari, who searched for coastal wines for Il Pesce, organic and biodynamic picks for Orto e Mare, and a 460-bottle list for the fine-dining venue Osteria Della Pace. “SevenFifty lets me do my job in a timely and accurate manner,” she says.
That quest for precision inspired Sherman to co-found SevenFifty with Neal Parikh and Gianfranco Verga. One night while Sherman was tending bar in New York City’s West Village, in walked Parikh, a soon-to-be computer-science Ph.D. graduate from Stanford University. “It was total serendipity,” says Sherman. Verga, like Sherman, was working in the wine-and-spirits industry. They started chatting about the nuances of ordering wine, and an online marketplace for wine buyers.
Using SevenFifty allows wine directors and sommeliers “to just do their jobs and do less busy work,” Sherman says. This leaves more time to train staff, develop pairings, and educate oneself with the products. So far, 800 distributors are using SevenFifty, representing 60 percent of the market, he says, adding that 35,000 retailers, bars, and restaurants have signed on. In September, SevenFifty launched an order-management system that breaks out orders by distributor. An archived order history makes future orders a breeze.
Calling himself an “old-guard wine director,” with a love for consulting tech sheets and other paper documents, the process of moving to digital wasn’t as difficult as JP Taylor Jr., wine director of Coperta—which opened in July in Denver—expected. Those odd hours spent building the wine list—mostly from Southern Italy—used to mean a lag in waiting for an email reply from a distributor. Now he has those answers right in the app. “It’s been nice to have this in my back pocket,” he says.