Stacey Vreeken, Wine Press: Decoding the Wine List


Here’s a hint: Trust your server when ordering wines. It’s even better when they’re the smiling type like John Locke, at right, co-owner of Birichino with Alex Krause. Locke, who is in charge of the wine offerings at Soif, in downtown Santa Cruz, stresses that your server is there to decode the wine list for you. ( Birichino )

By Stacey Vreeken

Special to the Sentinel

Huge wine lists that run on for pages can intimidate the most sophisticated wine lover. Even when you know just what type you want, the choices can be dizzying. Local, Napa, French, Australian, famous, obscure … what do you do?

The guys in charge of wine at the Shadowbrook Restaurant, known for its established selections, and Soif, known for its eclectic wines from around the world, say it’s all about relationships.

The server is there to decode the list for you.

“We ask you to make a bargain. You have to trust us,” says Soif wine buyer John Locke, himself a winemaker. “We’re there to decode it. We’re not trying to make it difficult, but we’re not making it easy either.”

Locke describes the relationship as a transaction based on trusting the server to know the wines well enough to make the consumer happy without confusing or making it too complicated for him or her.

“Most consumers have no idea what these wines are, and we don’t expect them to, but we want you to try something interesting … and with a distinctive personality,” says Locke. “We want to challenge and engage you; we want a moment with something you’ve never tasted or had before, and it’s delicious.”


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