Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wine and Tapas on Madison’s West Side – Eno Vino – Part I of II

MadisonWineScene (MWS) recently interviewed Jennifer Cameron, Wine Director of Eno Vino (, @ENOVINO on Twitter, Eno Vino Wine Bar and Bistro on Facebook) at 601 Junction Road, Madison, WI 53717, 608-664-9565) about Eno Vino’s wine business.
MWS: How has business been in Madison?
Jennifer: Business has been great.  We have actually have been doing a lot more than we have in previous years; it has just been very popular lately. We usually slow down in February and March, but this year it has been just outstanding.

MWS: How long has Eno Vino been open in Madison?
Jennifer: It will be seven years in November 2011.

MWS: Eno Vino has a very extensive wine list – over 275 bottles now ( What factors do you consider as you make up Eno Vino’s wine list?
Jennifer: Eno Vino's wine menu is designed to appeal to all of our guests. Whether they are a first time wine drinker or an advanced wine drinker, we want everyone to be happy with their choice of wine.

With that, we set our goal to have the largest wines-by-the-glass selection in Madison. We have everything from your more common varietals, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Cabernet. But, we also want to introduce some uncommon wines like Viognier, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah.  

It's so enjoyable to introduce a new wine to a guest that they fall in love with. We also want to make sure that we have elite and some staple wines by the bottles. We are always looking for great wine, and adding them to our list.

MWS: Is there a difference between the wines that you offer by the glass and by the bottle?
Jennifer: Yes, there is.

When we are looking at our wine by the glass selection at Eno Vino we always want to make sure that it is going to be in the price point that people are looking for.

Also when you drink a glass of Sauvignon Blanc you want it to have it taste like a Sauvignon Blanc, but as you know Sauvignon Blanc from France or New Zealand or California can be very different.

In the summer time I expand our white wine selections by the glass so I will have multiple styles of the same varietal, plus some more uncommon wines that are delicious on a hot summer day.

When people hear words like “it’s oaky” or “it tastes dry “or “it tastes sweet” they may have never really sat and tasted those wines side by side. So with our wine flights you can taste three different Chardonnays or three different Sauvignon Blancs next to each other and really understand how different each wine can be, and still be true to it’s varietal.

In the winter time what I do is I decrease the white wines by the glass and add a lot more red wines by the glass – people are looking for Cabernets or big, dark reds versus having the lighter reds in the summer time.

MWS: How do you decide how many wines to carry on your wine list?
Jennifer: Eno Vino is a wine bar, so we are actually always looking to increase our bottle selection and I plan on increasing it more and more as we go along.  

You don’t want somebody to be bored when they are flipping through a wine list, because it is a lot of information, and the way we had first stylized the wine menu, it was by varietals.  

Now we have decided to go by region instead, and so we did a big staff training session on what’s so great about wine from different regions, what does it really mean, does it make that big of a taste difference. So now people can come in and say “I am looking for a French Burgundy versus a California Pinot Noir” and so when we broke that out we started to add more wines by the bottle for specific regions and we want to continue to do so.

MWS: Any areas or wines you want to expand into with your wine list?
Jennifer: I would really like to increase our selection of French wines.

However, I feel that French wines have kind of gotten a bad name because, first they are a little bit more expensive, secondly many of our guests, I feel are much more prone to fruit-forward wines than Old World wines, but I feel like it is starting to make a comeback and we are starting to get people in here who are looking for French wines, in particular.  

I only have one Chateauneuf-du-Pape and I know people want more than that, so I plan on increasing it. Our French burgundy – not that big of a selection either, and I would really like to increase those – as well as the Bordeauxs.

Many people don’t know how delicate a French wine can be. I find that Montrachet is a beautiful wine – it is more expensive, but it is carefully selected, only from a particular village, and people don’t understand what goes into that. French wines use confusing words -- people don’t understand that Puligny-Montrachet is a Chardonnay and so people are willing to spend $80 on a high-end California Chardonnay, but for me I would rather spend an extra $20 and go with a Puligny-Montrachet, but that is to my particular tastes.

Right now we are very California-strong because we find that is what most of our guests are looking for – that is what they feel more comfortable with. But I feel if they come back and try these new glasses of wine – which is why I have French and Italian by the glass -- so that if they try it they usually find that they do like it. And then we can kind of go from there.

Similarly, Washington wines are absolutely fantastic and Oregon has wines that are similar to Burgundies – so I would like to increase that. Pinot Noirs are becoming much more popular now so people are looking for Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley.

For our Wine & Tapas events on Wednesdays, we have different themes every week.  The reason we do this, is so we can get a variety of wines out of particular regions. One week it could be Washington wines, and the next it could be a specific region out of Italy.  It gives guests an opportunity to try specific wines from specific regions to understand how different wines can be from each region.

When the wine menu was first created it was even more California-strong, but as the business continues to go on we find that our guests are becoming more interested in trying something besides what they just now know. They want to try new stuff.

It is all about having our staff being trained properly, and having our guests ask more questions, have them able to taste things, to get them to understand more about wine.

MWS: What is the price point you are aiming at in selling wine by the glass?
Jennifer:  I am always looking to have wine that is typical of its varietal, and yet is at a good price point.

However, you can have some other wines like a Cabernet -- sometimes you don’t want a $7 glass of Cabernet, you want a really big, really full-bodied wine with nice tannins, and I will have that be at a little bit higher price point range.  

We want to have a variety of wines for every one, whether you are a beginning wine drinker or an advanced wine drinker.  

You never want to get too high on price though, just because after about $13 a glass most guests would probably opt for a bottle of wine.

Because Eno Vino has such a large wine by the glass selection we never want a bottle of wine to sit open longer than a day. So we want to set our price point so we are not wasting wine, and not serving bad wine either.

MWS: Do most of your guests buy wine by the glass or the bottle?
Jennifer: For the most part, people do it by the glass. However, for special occasions or for business meetings we do sell more bottles of wine.

I think that because Eno Vino has such a large variety of wines by the glass, it allows people at a table to try a variety of reds and whites.

Also, if you are going to start off with a Carpaccio it is not necessary that you want to have one glass of red wine right away, you might want something that is going to balance with the cheese and go with a white wine, and then go bigger as you go deeper into the meal. But we still do a good percentage of wine bottle sales, as well, especially in the dining area.

MWS: Eno Vino has some wine flights featuring relatively lesser-known varietals such as Monastrell, Tempranillo, Grenache in your Running of the Reds, and Eno Vino is probably the only restaurant in Madison that offers Portuguese reds.  Any reason for that and are customers willing to try those?
Jennifer: A lot of guests are starting to really enjoy Chilean reds, and especially Malbecs from Argentina, and they are at a lower price point. Malbecs have been popular here for a couple of years now. Same thing has happened with the Spanish reds. I find that Spanish reds tend to be less expensive but still very good quality.  

People are beginning to understand what a Tempranillo is. When we started off we sold a lot of Malbecs by the glass, and then our guests would go “I really like Malbec, but I am looking for something different” so then we took them to the next step, with Tempranillo. The Monastrell was definitely out on a limb, but the winter menu changed, and I wanted to add another big red and I really enjoyed the Monastrell, and as it turned out some of our guests did as well. We decided to make a wine flight by adding the Grenache as well. It was inexpensive. Guests really enjoy the wide variety and to taste these wines that all come from Spain.

I just put a Cotes-du-Rhone on for our most recent change and because people are now tasting these different wines that go into a Cotes-du-Rhone they are starting to understand that it is a beautiful blend.

A subsequent post will continue with Eno Vino’s wine list and also discuss Eno Vino’s wine and food, training of staff, and wine events.


  1. Very meaningful and interesting conversation. I'm so glad that Eno Vino is still getting stronger despite the tough competition.

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