Ray’s Restaurants Wine Program Is Aged To Perfection

Ray’s Restaurants has attracted guests with award-winning menus, approachable, elevated service, and spectacular views for four decades. But many diners have also come to associate Ray’s with the esteemed wine lists offering extraordinary selections at unprecedented value at Ray’s on the River, Ray’s Killer Creek, and Ray’s in the City.

Bryson Rudd, who is the assistant general manager at Ray’s on the River and oversees the company’s wine program, shares how the restaurants maintain a Wine Spectator Award-winning wine selection that is both relevant and appealing to guests consistently year after year: it all comes down to a precise combination of affordable pricing, close relationships with distributors and producers and comprehensive staff training.

“What makes Ray’s wine program extra special is our pricing,” says Rudd. “We don’t price to industry standards, and that’s one of the biggest things that sets us apart. We are in the hospitality business, and we want to provide our guests with excellent wine at an incredible value.”

Rudd and his team place wine orders once a week at each of the three restaurants, allowing for private events plus weekly features such as brunch mimosas.

Ray’s has cultivated close relationships with many wine distributors in the Atlanta area and relies on both these partnerships as well as the company’s monitoring and in-house research to develop a wine program that features a seamless blend of reputable wineries, exclusive offerings that aren’t readily available at other nearby restaurants, and up-and-coming selections from lesser-known regions. With an ever-changing list, Rudd emphasizes the need to keep an eye on industry changes.

“There are certain tried-and-true classics we always carry because we know we can rely on the quality of the product, but we also love to seek out innovative new winemakers to allow for more diversity and draw in new clientele,” he says. “We care about knowledge and sharing that information with guests. It’s important to us to allow diners to try wines that they may not be able to try anywhere else.”

To further reward wine enthusiasts, Ray’s offers wine dinners featuring prestigious producers such as Daou Vineyards and Orin Swift Cellars. These events offer unique opportunities for wine drinkers to try limited-production offerings that are not generally available by the glass and experience how the wines complement different dishes.

Rudd feels it is of the utmost importance for his team to be well-informed of Ray’s wine program to help guide diners’ decisions when ordering. The restaurant company offers the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification process to all staff members each year to expand their knowledge, and staff tastings are done frequently with wine distributors to deepen the staff’s understanding of wine characteristics.

“Ordering a bottle of wine can be a commitment, so our guests need to know they’re in good hands,” he says. “Regulars at Ray’s have come to expect that our staff members have that deep knowledge of the products we offer, the flavor profiles, and what makes each one unique. This knowledge also allows our staff to build trust with guests and introduce different options that diners may not have ventured to try on their own.”

About Ray’s Restaurants:

Founded in 1984 by renowned restaurant industry veteran Ray Schoenbaum, Ray’s Restaurants is comprised of Ray’s on the River (6700 Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs, 770-955-1187), Ray’s in the City (240 Peachtree Street NW in Downtown Atlanta, 404-524-9224) and Ray’s at Killer Creek (1700 Mansell Road in Alpharetta, 770-649-0064). Each restaurant features an award-winning menu with an emphasis on fresh fish flown in daily from the Atlantic and Pacific, house-cut chops, prime steaks, and extensive wine offerings from around the world. raysrestaurants.com.