Pete Redington photo
A s with its supposedly less classy cousin, the pitcher of beer, there’s just something comfortingly communal about a bottle of wine. A romantic dinner for two. The engaged conversation of a dinner party. A prized vintage enjoyed with friends: “Shall we have another bottle of wine?” It’s not really about drinking, it’s about sharing. Or so we tell ourselves upon uncorking another bottle.
But sometimes there’s not enough variety in a bottle of wine, nor enough agreement regarding the desired grape among a group of friends. Unfortunately, this often leads to the conciliatory question from the restricted wine-by-the-glass drinker, “What do you have open?”
At The Lumber Yard, that sorry question need never be asked. The Amherst restaurant offers wine on tap: an impressive 24 wines—12 white and 12 red—are available by the glass, each served through a WineStation preservation system, which can be found right next to the kegs of tapped beer just behind the bar.
“What it enables us to do is put wine on the machine, and it will keep them absolutely fresh for three weeks,” Rolf Nelson, who owns and operates The Lumber Yard along with his wife Cindy, tells me. “It’s an inert gas system. Every time you take a glass out, argon gas is pumped into the bottle. So oxygen never touches the wine.”
The serving system creates flexibility because The Lumber Yard can then offer high-end vintages at more affordable prices. “It allows us to have some wines that are perhaps more expensive,” Nelson continues. “The customer can say, ‘Okay, I’m not going to buy that by the bottle, because that’s going to cost me $100. But I’ll be happy to try it for $15 a glass.’ And then we don’t have to sell all five glasses in one night. So it gives people some options.”
According to Napa Technology, the company that has produced the WineStation tap system since 2005, wine appreciation is enjoying a cultural shift. Wine has come out of the cellar, with screw-top bottles and cheaper sticker prices signaling a changing demographic that is leaving its musty snobbishness behind.
The amount of wine purchased by 21- to 34-year-olds has risen 13 percent in the past decade, notes the Napa Technology website. In 2010, $34.6 billion worth of wine was sold in the U.S. alone: 360.1 million nine-liter cases of wine. There are now 950,000 wine-serving bars and restaurants nationwide, and over 4,000 licensed wineries to boot.
With technological developments like the WineStation, restaurants like The Lumber Yard can now offer mores wines to more people, all for less money. Which is tasty news indeed.•