Baby-Making Wines and How to Avoid Them

Adam Arlen

, Happy Hour

In other words:
how not to pick a wine for Valentine’s Day weekend


Flash back to a few years ago at my previous employer.

All the wine directors in the company were given a list of mandates, wines that were selected at the home office (overhead department) for us to put on our wine lists.  These were not optional, and unfortunately, not that good and everywhere in retail.  They had selected a well-known Australian producer that had made a name for itself years ago but had declined in quality.  I had it available by the glass and had thrown out more than I sold.  At the time I had a general manager that just said, “Drive sales and put money to the bottom line of the P&L”.


An unexpected visit

As my frustration grew from lack of understanding from the overhead department, one of my wine reps stopped by unannounced.  Normally, I would have said I don’t have time now but let’s get some time on the schedule.  He said no.  I needed to taste the wines he had in his bag and had a stupid deal on one.  Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia.  The wine was fantastic!!



Offering a special price

The winery had pulled out of the market due to a retailer blasting out a crazy low price on their website and in an email blast.  They wanted to get back in the market and offered a special price to offer the wine by the glass in key accounts where it would not be bastardized.  I jumped on it!  I had 4 cases delivered the next day and on the wine list for the weekend.


People loved this wine

Monday morning, I had to order 4 more since we plowed through the initial load.  That was 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day weekend.  This year Valentine’s Day was on a Thursday and we were slammed all weekend. I had 10 cases delivered in preparation for the crazy weekend.  We went through all of them.


One small detail overlooked

I should have done more research on the bottle.  I was so focused on the deal and the quality of the wine, I never looked at any of the technical details.  The wine was listed at 16.5% alcohol by volume.  It really drank like it was over 18%!


A baby maker wine

Some in the wine profession will use terms like “first date wine” or “baby maker” when describing a wine.  They are big fruity reds with high alcohol and very easy to drink. I was very early in my wine director career and really didn’t understand what they had meant, until we arrived at restaurant week in the summer.  I had bumped into some of the couples that dined with us over Valentine’s Day weekend.  12 to be precise.  I knew they were all wine lovers.  Only the husbands were drinking wine.  Then “baby maker’ clicked.


Wine recommendations for Valentine’s Day

Andrew Murray Curtis Vineyard Grenache from Santa Ynez Valley

Wrath San Saba Vineyard Syrah

Both are rich and juicy without the potential 18 year hangover!



Adam Arlen, Sommelier


Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”





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