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February 11, 2010

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Buy and cellar service for wines

A leading steakhouse has decided to add a comprehensive service for wine lovers to its brand, providing not only some of the world's leading labels but also climate-controlled storage facilities and wine-food pairing advice, Sam Riley reports.

One of the city's most salubrious addresses for carnivores, Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse, is set to launch a luxury wine cellar and wine vault that mixes cutting-edge technology with old world charm.

Decked out with faux ostrich skin-covered walls and vintage Chesterfield leather chairs, the Roosevelt Private Cellar & Wine Vault facility has the capacity to store more than 30,000 bottles of wine in temperature-controlled conditions.

The move to expand the Roosevelt brand into wine comes after the restaurant's co-owner George Chen last year gained a much sought-after wine importing license.

The San Francisco native and long-time wine enthusiast says he wants to specialize in importing offerings from boutique vineyards predominately in California.

He will also provide wines from other parts of the "new world," such as Australia and South America as well as premium labels from France, at the cellar which will begin full operations after Spring Festival.

Saying that wine drinkers in Shanghai have been paying too much for wines, Chen says he wants to provide premium and boutique labels at reasonable prices.

"I think there is room to pass on savings to the customers," he says.

"The market is growing strongly and this is Shanghai, China, so there should be more choices, more options and better prices," he adds.

Specially built

The cellar is located in what used to be a spa inside the grounds of the historic Ruijin Hotel.

A close neighbor of the Marshall mansion, where US General George Marshall stayed from 1945 until 1949, the cellar has specially built rooms that keep the temperature at a constant 13 degrees Celsius.

Along with wine storage there are two large walk-in humidors with personalized, secure cigar boxes for members to store their cigars.

The Steakhouse was launched in late 2007 and is a partnership between Chen and H. Delano Roosevelt, FDR's grandson.

Chen, who owns 14 restaurants mainly in San Francisco area, has built a restaurant with an old world club feel, complete with cigar room where members have chairs bearing their names and their own locked cigar boxes.

The personalized clubby feel extends to the new wine cellar where members will have storage rights if they purchase more than 6,000 yuan (US$878) worth of wine, cigars and spirits every three months.

Those wanting an occasional drink can spend 1,000 yuan a month at the cellar.

Available for the first 100 members is the capacity to store a minimum of 12 bottles at 1 yuan a month per bottle.

For those with less expensive wine tastes, Chen is also planning to open a retail outlet on Taiyuan Road that will sell some of his imported wines for between 100 and 300 yuan a bottle.

Chen says he wants his cellar to cater for both the novice drinker and the connoisseur with wine education and multimedia facilities, tasting rooms and an accompanying multimedia service.

With a long history in the Napa Valley region, Chen has built relationships with a range of small- to medium-sized wine producers who are eyeing the China market in the wake of the economic slowdown in the United States.

Some of the Napa Valley producers Chen will bring to China include Stagecoach, Biader and Carter.

Chen hopes to launch an interactive Website and SMS service to provide consumers with information at their fingertips on more than 12,000 commonly available wines.

Food pairing

The SMS listing will provide information on the wine, a rating, a food pairing advice and a recommended retail price.

Chen sees it as just another step toward providing more affordable wines and better information to China's increasing number of wine enthusiasts.

"Some people in the past have bought junk wines to China thinking of the market here merely as a dumping ground for juice that no one else wants," Chen says. "We want to help and educate both local and expat wine drinkers to make better decisions through providing more easily accessible wine information, whether that be through the cellar, the Internet or SMS."

Roosevelt Private Cellar & Wine Vault

Address: 160 Taiyuan Rd, near Yongjia Rd


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