Amanda Smeltz began working in restaurants as an undergraduate, and helped open The Breslin and John Dory under Wine Director Carla Rsezseskwi. In 2012, she became wine director at Roberta’s in Bushwick, and built a diverse list packed with values and some esoteric gems. She made the leap back to Manhattan last year, this time on the Upper West Side, replacing Michael Madrigale as head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud in June 2016.
Two lists that share a cellar
Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud are connected by an underground cellar, and there’s about 50 to 60 percent crossover. Bar’s list is resolutely French, but also has New World wines that are studies in Old World style. I’m interested in deepening the selections of American wines. There’s some amazing wine being made in this country. Sud’s list is more broadly Mediterranean, with a lot of French wines but extending beyond to Greece, Italy, Lebanon, and other places. I’d like to continue building up the coastal Italian selections. We tend to sell more sparkling wine at Sud as part of a multi-course experience. That doesn’t happen as much at Bar.
Vacheron Sancerre was our top seller at Sud, and that has a lot to do with the decades-old notion that Sancerre is a kind or type of wine; most Americans don’t know it’s a place, or even that it’s sauvignon blanc. It’s a price point, something they associate with quality, and it fits the profile they’re expecting of a lean, mineral, dry, wine they can just order without being bothered by a somm. That’s how I read that slot, so I just choose a producer that I trust to deliver quality.
Au Bon Climat’s Santa Barbara Chardonnay sold well at both restaurants. I consider that a name-check varietal with a familiar profile that Upper West Siders can relate to. It’s relatively oaky but not over the top, has some lushness and weight but is balanced. It represents comfort.
Great pinot noir from unexpected places
The biggest new successes were both New World pinots—Joe Swick Columbia Gorge Le Sous Bois at Sud and Botanica Elgin Pinot Noir at Bar. Guests seem to believe that you can’t get good New World pinot from anywhere other than the Willamette Valley or California; to have success with pinots from Washington State and South Africa is a victory for me. It has a lot to do with the variety, but they’re also great wines from small producers.
Joe Swick is a relatively young guy with a fair amount of old vines on the Columbia Gorge. He works pretty naturally and uses zero sulfur on Sous Bois; it’s exceedingly fresh, with good structure and a foresty/woodsy character.
Ginny Povall is a botanist by training and only started making wine recently. I was floored by Botanica’s gorgeous texture, vibrant fruit and aromatics. Its tenor of grace and balance is something I’d expect from someone with more experience making pinot noir.
photo by Megan Swann