I fully admit that I had some trepidation going back into an Olive Garden Restaurant, especially to taste wine. But, I had willingly committed to doing a series about the possibility of finding a decent wine by the glass at a chain. So, I grabbed my friend, Jennifer, and off we went.
Danny and Jeff
We were met by General Manager, Danny Gabaldon, and Certified Wine Trainer and a guy you want to work for you, Jeff Kidd, and seated in the bar area. The restaurant had recently been remodeled with a Tuscan influence and was not the dark wood, dark place that I remembered from about 15 years ago. We were presented with the wine list, which had 38 wines total with 35 offered by the glass at all price ranges. The wines ranged from the house Cabit to the more interesting Italian wines. Master Sommelier Andrea Immer Robinson helped create the wine training program for the Olive Garden and you can definitely see her influence. So I’m sure you wondering which three bottles aren’t available by the glass – Zonin Prosecco , Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella ($100) and Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montacino ($65).
Danny pointed out the featured wines list, which changes every six weeks, is matched with seasonal food items. The wines are 6 oz pours or for another $2.50, they will pour 9 ozs. The restaurant puts a sticker on each bottle that indicates the day the bottle was opened and when it is no longer consumable. In addition, air is pumped from each open bottle nightly. They brought us some bruschetta, Italian cheese and some individual sized desserts and we began to taste.
We tried the following wines:
- Rocca delle Macie Sasyr 07, a blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. This is a very fruity, tangy and easy to drink wine that pairs well with Italian flood. This was our favorite red wine.
- Feudo Arancio Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT 09, cranberry, berry and lots of fruit.
- Mandra Rossa Fiano 09, nice nose with lots of pear notes with tropical fruit and citrus. This would be a great pool wine.
- Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie Sartori di Verona 10, a very typical Pinot Grigio that would pair well with Italian food.
We also sampled the Moscato and the Roscotto, a sweet red made only for Olive Garden, with the desserts. I think I’m going to stick with my dessert wines favs, but it’s nice to know that these are around when Great Aunt Stella is ready to have some vino.
I must say that I’m impressed with the effort that Danny, Jeff and Darden Restaurants are putting effort into making sure diners have the option for a good glass of wine with their meal. At least at Olive Garden, you can get a decent glass of wine at a chain. Bravo!