Smith & Wollensky’s 50th National Wine Week is coming full circle with its semi annual wine-tasting program and the debut of its new Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc on March 5.

“When it started 25 years ago, food and wine weren’t really known to pair with each other,” says John Piccolino, corporate chef for Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. “[Wine Week] helped educate people in laymen’s terms.

“You know, ‘This is a steak, here’s a great Cabernet that goes really well with it, taste a little bit of meat, taste a little bit of wine, and tell us what you think.’”

But the 2012 drinker, “like they are with electronics and everything else, they’re just more educated,” says Stuart Roy, Smith & Wollenksy Restaurant Group’s national director of wine and spirits. “So, you have to put a better product out there, wine-wise.”

While Wine Week launched with an objective to enchant timid wine drinkers with the cajoling zests of Pinot Grigios, Chardonnays, and Zinfandels, its mission now is to open drinkers up to promising, sometimes unfamiliar brands.

During Wine Week, about 10 wines are offered daily at each of the nine cities with a Smith & Wollensky.

“That’s one of the things I love about Wine Week, because you have a lot of guys that come in and can try $200 bottles of wine that they can’t have everyday,” Roy says.

This March, Smith & Wollensky will debut a proprietary Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (in all locations except New York City), a white wine that boasts fruity notes of citrus, melon, and ripe mango.

Roy, Piccolino, and Michael Feighery, president of the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, are all self-proclaimed fanatics of Sauvignon Blanc, which made the decision of which wine to debut easy, says Roy.

“We sell a lot of shellfish bouquets, so we had a request for, ‘Why don’t you do a white?’” Roy says. “So we thought, when we do a white wine, let’s do something we all like to drink.”

From the kitchen, it is then Piccolino’s job to ensure his offerings match well with the Wine Week submissions.

“I try to choose something that would go with different wines that are being offered everyday,” Piccolino says.

That includes everything from the light seafood bouquet to the dry-aged beef Smith & Wollensky stakes its name on.

“What I’ve seen over my years is, everyone likes to try different things and compare, but they all get into the big name and big boy wines at the end,” Roy says.

As a result, those wines are ever-present on the Wine Week menu. The Col Solare Meritage and Robert Craig Cabernet are deep, full-bodied wines, and the Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage is a rich red wine that Piccolino calls “a little better than delicious.”

A three-course prix fixe lunch menu makes its debut this Wine Week as well (in all locations except New York City), making it easy for clients to match the wine to the beef and seafood offerings.

“The biggest thing I’ve done in my two wine weeks is make sure we have a well-balanced selection,” Roy says. “We have all this great plethora of wines out that we have to bring to the table. I think [wine] has changed and evolved. The quality and the bar is being raised there.”

By Sonya Chudgar

Beverage, Industry News, Smith & Wollensky