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October 23, 2014

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Joel Robuchon’s wine director spills the grapes

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Justin M. Bowen

Joel Robuchon wine director Harley Carbery

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It's the first thing that's offered to guests of Joel Robuchon: a chance to sample the restaurant's house champagne, which, of course, is not your typical house champagne. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find it by the glass anywhere else in town. The rose is dry and full-bodied with hints of strawberry and raspberry, and pairs nicely with the first course, an amuse-bouche of caviar and crab fennel cream.

When Harley Carbery took over the wine program at Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand more than year ago, one of his first moves was to change the pricing structure of the menu, bringing every single item down in price.

"I get a lot of comments from people around town, other sommeliers and wine directors as well as the guests, who are very surprised: 'Is this right?'" Carbery said, noting that despite the economic downturn, the restaurant has been sold out almost every night. "I don't want to scare people away. I want them to buy maybe that bottle that they didn't want to buy wherever else in town because it's $50 less (here)."

The Victoria, British Columbia, native oversees all things vino for both Joël Robuchon and the neighboring L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. His inventory includes about 2,000 labels, 60 percent of which are French, and some with price points between $75 and $100 — not too shabby for a restaurant whose pièce de résistance is a 13-course, $385 tasting menu.

"I found that, especially with our clientele, most people are fairly open to trying new things. They're not scared of the screw cap anymore. I've found the general public is a lot more well-versed in wine than they used to be."

Carbery is, too, especially now that he gets to taste test verticals of the prized Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for a living.

— Originally published in Las Vegas Magazine

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