Christopher Bates is a Master Sommelier, and that’s a big deal.
According to the Court of Master Sommeliers (yeah, it’s a court) there are only 165 masters from the USA and only 256 worldwide. It took Christopher about 12 years to ascend to such heady heights and join the elite of an already elite industry. Once he did, the wine world became his proverbial oyster.
Like plenty of high-profile wine professionals, Bates owns a winery and has worked in fine dining for years. In his words, he and his wife Isabel have “run hotels and restaurants basically around the world, mostly at the real top pinnacle of price point luxury.” After being newly minted as a master, however, he made a weird choice.
Christopher and Isabel ditched the white tablecloths for ketchup-stained kitchen whites and began to serve up the one type of food that could not be farther from “the pinnacle of price point luxury.” We’re talking about hot dogs.
Christopher went from winery to wienery- the FLX Wienery to be exact.
The wienery is Christopher and Isabel’s one-stop dog and burger joint in the heart of the Finger Lakes. You won’t find foie gras or caviar on the menu, a burger with chips and soda costs 10 bucks, and you will not be greeted by a kowtowing somm in a suit. It’s a no frills and all chills kind of place, but it ain’t a shabby grease shack.
The FLX Wienery is the embodiment of what Christopher calls “wine country casual.” This might best be described as a set of extremely well-made basics with super subtle and super special touches of “higher” cuisine.
Picture a good ole burger topped with crumbled blue cheese and paired with a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Imagine sipping on a shake — an “Oreo Stout” or “Bacon and Brown Sugar” shake. Envision yourself slathering a Zweigle’s wiener with the wienery’s housemade smoked ketchup, brown mustard, miso and soy mayo, or Korean BBQ sauce.
The beer list is packed to the brim with Belgian and German old world gems and American craft goodness. The wine list? Well, it was curated by a master sommelier, so, you know, it’s really good.
“I think it shocked a lot of people.” Christopher admits. “Ultimately, it comes down to food and hospitality with care. I’m just as happy going and eating somebody’s fried chicken or a po’ boy or a burger as I am a 25 course tasting menu, as long as whoever’s making it gives a shit and does it with attention to detail and passion and love.”
Such is the mission of the FLX Wienery: to provide wine country wanderers with casual food that captures the elements of fine dining they love and discards the ones we could all do without. Any place where housemade toppings and sauces don’t come with housemade stuffiness, where Europe’s finest wines curl up next to America’s finest ground beef, and where hot dogs flirt with haute cuisine is a place we all want to be.
Plus, as Christopher takes pains to point out, burgers and wine go together really goddamn well.