After an impassioned pitch from Brian McClintic of SOMM fame, I was more than eager to visit Les Marchands, his Santa Barbara Funk Zone wine bar. On a pleasant Friday evening in January, the bar was already bustling, and my group of four tested out the adaptability of his staff.

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I loved the space, with partially roughed-out walls blending right into refined areas with floor to ceiling wine racks. We sat at a corner table directly adjacent to the end of the bar, where we never felt crowded or over-stimulated by the activity around us. I laid out my desire to taste several wines with my wife, while our companions would have only a glass, and asked for suggestions. There was not a tasting on the menu that night, but our initial server confirmed what I was looking for, and assured us that it could be arranged. Soon, a second server arrived. Based on a series of questions, she recommended six wines between the by-the-glass menu and specials board in the bar. My friends chose their glass from her descriptions that followed.

I inquired of our server about the wine clubs and shipping availability, and another staff member came to escort me to the wine market. He took considerable time to answer my questions about the current inventory and how the clubs work, while addressing numerable questions and requests from staff. The mission of helping customers to discover unknown wines was highlighted. We were discussing Cote Rotie. He described how, if my orders make clear I am a fan of Cote Rotie, or Northern Rhone, or Syrah in general, that Brian and the staff will recognize and use this knowledge to customize future shipments. However, this will not eliminate the encouragement of new experiences, as there will still be the unexpected bottles. I am certain that patrons of the wine bar and club members may be accustomed to hearing, "trust me", from the staff, and pleasantly surprised by the outcome. 

There were slight transitional delays in service. I would like to have heard more about the Vallin project Brian is involved in. Perhaps the omission was due to lack of supply of the popular new wines. There was over-sell on the ramen bowl special, a new feature which was suggested four times, even though I stated from the beginning we were only drinking wine.

 

Four total staff members combined for a complete service experience, accommodating all requests, including the unscheduled, impromptu wine tasting, and answering all questionsOverall, I was pleased with adequate service, and exhilarated by the wines and the discussion of them with several staff members who "got it". I would become a fixture of Les Marchands should I spend regular time in Santa Barbara.

 

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant

Suite B, 131 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

 

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