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RESTAURANT JOURNAL

Wine list really lets you browse

October 30, 2002|S. Irene Virbila

AUREOLE Las Vegas may be on to the next big thing.

Instead of handing diners an unwieldy tome listing all 4,000 wines in the restaurant's phenomenal cellar, Aureole presents them with a handy computerized device. It's called the eWine Book, and the restaurant claims it's the first wireless, Internet-based wine list.

The list can be searched by color, style, grape, region, price, vintage or bottle size. You can bookmark wines and come back to them, or add (and delete) them from a virtual wine cart. In a dark restaurant, the illuminated screen is easier to read than a traditional wine list. And if someone buys the last bottle of Silver Oak Cab, the inventory is immediately updated.

Diners can also click on any dish from Aureole's menu and get a list of a dozen or so wine recommendations, including some by the glass. If you want to explore further, you can access the sommelier's tasting notes (in non-wine-speak) and information about the producer or the region.

Or if you want to make it fast and simple, you can go straight to your favorite Chardonnay.

Aureole's wine director, Andrew Bradbury, a self-described techno-geek, has spent the last six years playing with the idea of an electronic wine list. But nothing quite worked the way he wanted until wireless tablet technology came along, which allowed him to have a continuously updated list, accessible from each hand-held device.

"I look at it as an electronic wine magazine," Bradbury says. "The idea is to make wine fun and less intimidating."

He's had a few technophobes come in who refused to consider anything but a traditional printed list, but most guests are intrigued.

"Couples are soon sitting side by side playing with the electronic tablet. And at larger tables, people are lined up three deep to get a look," he says. "It's actually increased sommeliers' interaction with guests because it puts people more at ease, especially after we give them a quick demo of how it works."

It's been such a hit that a few months ago, Bradbury installed the eWine Book at Aureole New York as well. And in mid-November, he will introduce an improved eWine Book with software designed from the ground up. It will be smaller, lighter and faster, but because he's developed this one with some major players in software and hardware, details are under wraps until its official launch.

What he will say is that it will have real-time video streaming from the 42-foot glass wine tower in the restaurant. Now guests not seated in direct view of the wine tower will be able to watch the cat-suited "wine angels," one of whom is Bradbury's fiancee, retrieve the very bottle they ordered from the tower's 10,000-bottle cache. (And that's just 20% of Aureole's entire cellar). How cool is that?

To test-drive the current eWine Book and tour the wine tower, visit www.ewinetow er.com. You can even pre-order wines for a coming visit to Aureole Las Vegas or start an e-mail dialogue with the sommelier.

Aureole Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas. (702) 632-7401.

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