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Steakhouse Swift And Sons Introduces Birthday Wine List

By John Lenart in Food on Feb 3, 2016 6:06PM

Image Courtesy Swift and Sons

It all started with a seemingly innocuous Instagram photo by Kevin Boehm, Co-Owner and Co-founder of the Boka Group. What it set off was a flurry of calls and social media requests from people wanting to know if their birth year was available.

The Instagram photo was of a new exciting page added to the Swift and Sons wine list called, “The Birthday List.”


Birthdays, of course, are about celebration, and what better way to celebrate your birthday than to share a bottle of wine from the year you were born. Swift and Sons now has an exciting list of older vintage wines for you to celebrate your birthday with.

But let's take a step back and start at the beginning.

It all began over a dinner in Las Vegas. “They had a bottle of 1970 Cheval Blanc on the list and I just said, 'You know what? I'm getting my birth year.' And so I ordered it and I thought, there has to be a birthday wine list out there, where you can go on, find your birth year and order it. I did some research and nobody did it. And I said, ‘What an interesting fun idea for a steakhouse, and we just happened to be developing this steak house,” says Boehm.

So after getting Swift and Sons up and running Boehm spoke with Sommelier Marcello Cancelli and had him put the list together. Now guests can come in and order wines from the years they were born.

The list begins with 1964 and extends to 1995. Currently, not every vintage is available, but over the next two or three months the list will comprise wines from every year from 1961 through 1995. Now, Cancelli didn't just select any wine he could lay his hands on from a given vintage, but rather from specific regions that had exceptional vintages. “For example, '71 is not going to be a year that we look at France, but Italy did very well. There are vintages where Spain did very well when France suffered; '63 comes to mind. So it's finding wines from a particular vintage that work well somewhere, not just finding wine because it's from a vintage we need to fill the list,” says Cancelli.

Once Cancelli has filled each of the years from '61 on, Boehm has charged him to go back even deeper, perhaps all the way to 1945 and beyond.

Cancelli purchases these wines from a variety of sources, including Hart Davis Hart and certain east coast purveyors. The real gamble for a restaurant in purchasing wines like this is if a bottle is tainted. Typically, if you happen to be served a bottle of wine that is flawed the restaurant simply returns the bottle to the distributor for a refund. In cases where the wines are bought at auction or from secondary retail sources however, no such guarantees exist.

So in the unfortunate, but rare, case when a bottle is bad, it's a loss to the restaurant. So Cancelli is taking extra care to source wines of sound provenance.

“We do this with a lot of care. We're not just going to buy wine because it's from a certain year. We're carefully curating this," says Cancelli. "Very carefully finding bottles of wine that are in great shape, not only in where they came from and where they were stored, but wines that are a great example of the vintage,”

Because these wines are expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain Swift and Sons will stock just a few bottles of each vintage. So, if you want to be sure they have your birth year wine in stock be sure to phone ahead.

Also, one word of advice. While these wines are rare, and pricey, in a few cases it would appear that the markup might be on the high end or above what can be considered industry standard. That being said, a few are priced quite nicely. The '81 Grange Hermitage, while expensive at $850, can be considered a bargain at a restaurant.

Once you're done with dinner, you even get to take the bottle home as a keepsake.

What it all boils down to is having a great celebration and a memorable experience. Boehm somewhat emotionally tells us, “Rob (Katz, Boka Co-Owner and Co-Founder) and I were chatting about how special it is that people decide to spend their anniversary with us, or birthdays with us, you know, the most important times of their lives and this kind of fits right along with that. That these people are spending these significant occasions with us and we get to do something like this for them that makes it even more significant and more memorable that when they think back to that special birthday that they remember that time.”