Arthur Hon of Chicago’s Sepia on Willamette Pinot and Old Ribera del Duero - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Arthur Hon of Chicago’s Sepia on Willamette Pinot and Old Ribera del Duero

Arthur Hon, a W&S Best New Sommelier in 2015, studied environmental graphic design at the Art Institute of Chicago before transitioning to a career in restaurants. He started as a server when Sepia first opened in 2007, rising into the Wine Director position in 2012. and now manages a list of 600 wines.

On Willamette Pinot Noir

Pinot noir continues to be the hottest varietal next to cabernet. And for the most part,, the customer has moved from California to the Willamette Valley. The area has been doing fantastic marketing. The Oregon Pinot Camp has been happening for more than a decade and it takes in a broad spectrum of participants, so now there are spokesmen across all levels of the wine business.

Also, collectively the winemakers have banded together, more so than other regions in the US. It does seem like neighbors support each other there. The market is saturated with pinot noir, and yet no one is trying to outdo each other on price, at least not yet. And it’s a price point we can get on board with: generally the wholesale price for a bottle is around $25. Across the Willamette there is, of course, diverse soil and vintage variations but the overall unified message makes it easier to understand. The whites coming out of Oregon are fantastic, too.

Access to Ribera del Duero

Five or six years ago, the higher end stuff—from Ribera del Duero specifically, and Spain more generally—was more available. Now, the entry-level and second tier wines are available in a wider range of markets, so guests don’t have to spend $100 on the wine list, since we’re not looking at trophy wines from Ribera del Duero or Priorat. With the increased mid-and lower-end price point on the market, there can be a wider exposure to the region.

Canary Islands House Red

My intention with the by-the-glass list is to be daring. For me the [Vinatigo 2013 Ycoden-Daute-Isora Listan Negro] is almost my house red. It is supple, red-fruited, not tannic, fairly juicy and drinking well. It’s set at a price point to encourage guests to try it. And lots of times people are willing to try. Especially for us in this market, people are familiar with Spanish wines, so it isn’t as foreign to people. 

Drinking at Sepia tonight

If I was to order something, I’d probably drink something older, a Spanish red. I came across some older vintages from Ribera del Duero at the end of last year,. It’s like old Bordeaux but much cheaper. We serve our steak dish with marmalade of onion, a deep jus and red wine; I’d drink the Arrocal Christina 2005 Tinto Fino.

Caitlin Griffith knew her future career would entail food and drink when, at the age of six, she munched an anchovy from her father’s Caesar salad thinking it as a small strip of bacon—and was more than pleasantly surprised. While enrolled in New York University’s Food Studies program, she learned the secrets of affinage in the caves of Murray’s Cheese.