Ranald Macdonald must be one of the best customers a wine or drinks supplier could have. For he is always looking to do something new and different at any of his four Boisdale restaurants across London. So if you are equally ambitious, creative and have a good idea to share then his door is always open. Which is how E&J Gallo has started to work with him and his restaurant group by introducing its super premium Californian Collection of producers and winemakers. Wines that are particularly well placed to not only work well with the classic British and Scottish Boisdale cuisine, but fit in so well with the adventurous spirit that Macdonald and his Boisdale group is all about.
Richard Siddle managed to catch up and keep Ranald Macdonald in one place long enough to get his take on Californian wine, working with a major wine company, E&J Gallo, and just what it is that makes Boisdale such a great dining experience.
Marketing agencies and supposedly ‘on trend’ brands and restaurant chains are constantly telling us about the ‘experiences’ and ‘experiential occasions’ they are offering their customers, as though if it was something new. If they took the time to go and pay Ranald Macdonald and his Boisdale group of restaurants a visit, then they might have to go back to the drawing board.
Doing things differently, putting on events and creating special occasions has been what Macdonald and his team have been doing ever since he first opened the doors to the first Boislade in 1993 in its famous home on Eccleston Street just across the road from Victoria Station in London.
As it says on its website: “Great traditional restaurants dedicated to the finer things in life”. Now that mean sourcing what it believes is the best meat you can get in London, one of the biggest and best malt whisky collections outside of the Highlands, and a carefully selected Old and New World wine list.
Or it could mean sitting back and enjoying some of the finest live music you can find in the capital. For Boisdale and Macdonald take entertaining their guests as seriously as Ronnie Scotts or any other premier music venue in London. It even has none other than Jools Holland as its Patron of Music. That’s how important getting every detail right is to Macdonald and his events team.
But this is how Macdonald has always run his restaurants. A night or afternoon at Boisdale is an experience in its own right. From the decor, the paintings on the walls, the stuffed heads of deers, the fine cutlery. Even the salt and pepper pots exude class and an eye to detail. Just spending a couple of hours here for lunch or dinner will make you feel special and that’s before we get around to getting the band on.
Working in partnership
A great restaurant, however, lives and dies by the quality of the food and the diversity and value for money of its wine list. The latter part is where the premium wine team from E&J Gallo comes in.
On the face of it Macdonald and E&J Gallo may not seem natural bedfellows. He is a dyed in the wool restaurateur and Gallo is one of the world’s largest wine branded wine companies with brands in most major supermarkets.
But first impressions belie the fact they are actually, at heart, kindred spirits, looking to do things the best way possible. No matter what channel they are working in.
The new premium restaurant Californian Collection wine offer from E&J Gallo Winery showcases the quality of the Californian estates and producers that E&J Gallo has partnered with over the last five to seven years.
A selection of these are now opening the eyes and turning the heads of Boisdale regulars, particularly as the two companies have come together to offer an exclusive promotion across a number of wines as part of a takeover of the terrace at Boisdale of Canary Wharf during September.
Macdonald says the wines just stood out like beacons when he was first introduced to them by the premium Gallo team at the Belgravia restaurant a few months ago.
“These are wines that deserve their very own distinct place on our wine list. They might initially be slightly more expensive than the wines we usually list, but they are exquisitely enjoyable and sophisticated at the same time. They are just such great examples of the wonderful world of wine,” says Macdonald.
“They are also incredibly accessible. You don’t need to be knowledgeable about wine to understand them. They are just so obviously delicious.”
The wines being featured in the Boisdale California terrace takeover are:
- MacMurray Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Gris 2016
Bottle £72 reduced to £48 as Wine of the Month (September)
- Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Bottle £76 reduced to £51 as Wine of the Month (September)
- MacMurray Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2015
- Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
- Orin Swift Abstract 2016
- Orin Swift Machete 2016
- J Vineyards Cuvée 20
- J Vineyards Brut Rosé
Macdonald says the J Vineyards sparkling offer is particularly interesting as it offers a wine that he believes stands up to Champagne. “It’s very attractively presented, has a touch more of yeast and is as every bit as complex to a Champagne,” he says. “We had it a recent editor’s lunch and it went down very well.”
He also says he loves the “superb, fine creamy finish” on the MacMurray Pinot Gris. “The McMurray Pinot Noir is also bloody good. It’s a style of wine you also can’t get from Burgundy.”
California would not be California without being able to show great quality Cabernet Sauvignon which Macdonald says they have with the two Louis M Martini wines, from Sonoma County and Napa Valley. “Both are absolutely delicious.”
But he admits he is most excited to have two of the Orin Swift range of wines to show his customers. “These are both super quality wines, but they are also great fun as well. The presentation is unique. I am looking forward to how guests react when they see these bottles on other people’s table’s.”
These are also wines that would normally be on its list at £120 for the Abstract and £150 for the Machete so the half price offer really is something, says Macdonald.
The wines will be available either by bottle or by the glass so that guests can have more choice to taste across the range.
The Boisdale team will be looking to introduce more Californian-style dishes and touches to the menu during September as well. The terrace is also being given a Californian make-over as well for the month.
The wider Boisdale and E&J Gallo Winery partnership is already in full swing with a number of initiatives and promotions already underway.
In July, they hosted a specially themed wine dinner at Boisdale of Mayfair which was co-hosted by Macdonald and E&J Gallo Winery ’s Head of Fine Wine for EMEA, Edouard Baijot MW.
The evening pitted American and Scottish surf and turf dishes against each other with guests invited to vote for their favourite, be it Native Hebridean Lobster vs New Jersey Atlantic lobster, followed by Black Angus USDA Prime vs Dry Aged Buccleuch Scottish Grass Fed Ribeye
“Most of all it was a great way to show these wines and what they can do,” says Macdonald.
They also worked together on a special Boisdale Independence Day Menu, paired with Californian Collection wines at its Canary Wharf and Bishopsgate restaurants for the first week in July.
Boisdale will be shining the spotlight on Californian wines during their terrace takeover with some great opportunities to try the wines at attractive prices.
“I am particularly pleased to be able to offer these wines to my customers at prices that are such incredible value. They have access to some truly stunning wines that they may not have seen before.
“These are wines that really have to be tasted and tried and we hope we can give them more of a following. It means, for example, we are offering the MacMurray Pinot Noir for £44.50 which is crazy value.”
But that is what Boisdale is all about. “We want to keep our customers excited by having so many events that they can come to and enjoy. It’s also to the mutual benefit of our suppliers to do things together. It creates good experiences and great value for our customers and suppliers,” explains Macdonald.
It also allows each of the Boisdale’s to have a character and personality of their own. They might all have live music and events, but they also have a very different feel. Which means it is able to cut and splice up its offer and is not put all its eggs into one Boisdale basket.
“We are definitely putting on more and more events and earlier this year hosted our very own Boisdale Music Awards to celebrate great artists [presented by Jools Holland].”
It is also a way to keep customers coming back, for Boisdale is not alone in having to work a lot harder for its regular clients, particularly now that there have been cut backs on lunchtime expenses and dining in the City.
“In the past it used to be all about lunches and corporate events. Now it is about entertaining people at night. Which is where all the live music comes in. We are doing a lot of things now that we weren’t doing three years ago.”
Like the Music Awards and its Cigar Smoker of the Year event. Which all help create the noise, and buzz around Boisdale going. “It’s about using these events to build momentum for the whole business,” he explains.
It’s also not a new way of doing things. Boisdale was the first restaurant in London, he claims, to have a dedicated cigar bar back in 1995. It followed that up by being the first to promote whisky cocktails in 1997. “We were the first to bring mojitos to London from Cuba in 1998,” he adds. “We had the Floridita bar in Belgravia. All good fun.”
It might present itself as a premium venue, but it certainly offers great value, stresses Macdonald, be it the “best burger you can have in London for as little as £9”. “We have the best steaks in London sourced from the Queen’s master butcher!” he declares.
You don’t even need to go to any of the restaurants to get to know what Boisdale is all about. For it has been producing its own lifestyle and culture magazine, Boisdale Life, long before any pushy publishing company came along offering to ‘help’ its brand with some content marketing.
This is no in house magazine, but a serious title in its own right with a circulation of 100,000. It features many of the country’s top lifestyle writers, national newspaper journalists, business and economics commentators. All of whom are famously not paid in pounds, shillings and pence, but in Boisdale points. Points you can then redeem for all that Boisdale can offer you in any of its restaurants.
“It comes out once a quarter and we have been doing it for years. It’s all about creating a sense of what Boisdale is all about. A place to come and relax, enjoy yourself, meet friends, new people and have some fun,” explains Boisdale.
If you have not been for a while then September is the perfect time to re-acquaint yourself with not just the charm of Boisdale, but head to Canary Wharf and you can get lost on its California terrace and enjoy half priced premium Californian wines to boot.
- The California Collection Terrace at Boisdale of Canary Wharf opened on Monday 2nd September. For more information about E&J Gallo Wines, please contact Hannah Fagan, fine wine national account manager at Hannah.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You can find our more about what E&J Gallo Wines is offering the premium on-trade on its Suppliers page on The Buyer as part of a 12 month partnership.
- For more information about Boisdale, visit www.boisdale.co.uk.