Matty Colston has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years, and has known Parachute chef Johnny Clark even longer: They grew up together in Cincinnati and always stayed in touch. After Clark moved to Chicago, he and his wife Beverly Kim linked up with Colston to hammer out the concept of their own spot. When asked about the Chicago wine trends he noticed last year, Colston told Deanna Gonnella: “I think the trend was not so much a specific wine, as it was people opening their minds. Everyone wants to know where their food comes from. Guess what? You can do that with wine too.” As a result, many of his most popular wines were far from the usual suspects.
How on earth did the Pilizota Plavina from Croatia end up as one of your top-selling wines?
I would definitely put Croatian wine in the curiosity of many. People see it; it stands out. I don’t think people fully understand the Croatian coast. The Dalmatian coast is basically paradise. It’s affordable. I think the wine really fits into this cool category of medium-to-full body in texture, but still is bright and fresh, with this deep note that pleases the person who likes a malbec or zin—plavina reminds me of barbera or zin. But it’s really distinctive; I’ve never had anything quite like it. It turns on all sorts of lights for people.
You also sold a lot of Mosse’s Moussamoussettes pét-nat.
You see things get more popular because it’s got a zazzy name to it. Méthod ancestral has been around forever—people have been making wine like that, or vin mousseux, forever. But the pét-nat name—it’s catchy. It’s going to catch people’s attention. Because they are humble wines and super fresh, they don’t need food but they happen to work great with food. You can take a beer drinker, turn them onto that with the cidery quality, and poof: You’ve got someone transformed.
How did Philippe Tessier’s sauvignon blanc-based Cheverny end up as your best-selling wine?
If you’re going to order a sauvignon blanc, I’m going to give you something pretty different. I’m not going to give you a grassy New Zealand grapefruit/citrus thing. I stand behind the wines, but I very quietly push my philosophy onto people, only for the sake of sparking curiosity. The sauvignon blanc is comfortable for people; it’s a word they are more familiar with. But the Tessier isn’t all sauvignon; it has some chardonnay in it, even some obscure Loire grapes. But the wine has mad texture and it’s really compelling—it grabs you.
photo by Cory Dewald.