Gavin Humes of Scratch Restuarants Group on Dry Hungarians and Equally Dry Rieslings - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Gavin Humes of Scratch Restuarants Group on Dry Hungarians and Equally Dry Rieslings

Gavin Humes is the rare example of someone whose path to wine began in the back of the house. A classically trained executive chef, he took on the beverage program in addition to his chef duties at the now defunct Tuccio’s in Woodland Hills, California. Gavin has continued to take a holistic approach to his work, and now serves as both the Director of Operations and Food and Beverage Director for the Scratch Restaurants Group. Their portfolio includes (but is not limited to)  the Michelin-starred Pasta Bar in Encino, California, Sushi by Scratch Restaurants with nine locations in the States and one in Montréal, and multiple concepts in Austin, Texas. —David Rosoff

Gavin Humes

What wine regions interest you most?

A lot of times, travel dictates what I get excited about. I got to spend a little bit of time in Hungary and Tokaj last year, which was amazing. So, I’ve been geeking out about some of those wines, especially some of the dry stuff. Obviously, everyone knows the sweet Tokaji and those are fantastic. But the dry stuff that’s coming out of Hungary has been really cool.

And then, the cliché answer: I still haven’t gotten over my affection for Burgundy. I will say, if there’s a quirk to that, I suppose I’m a sucker for aligoté. If I see aligoté, I’m probably gonna buy it. Obviously, I love the chardonnay and the pinot, but aligoté, for me, has been the best way to get Burgundy at value. It’s just impossible to get good value Burgundy anymore. It’s creeping up, but there’s still a little bit of value to be had in that particular subcategory of Burgundy. I work in food and beverage. I’m a poor man, so I can’t afford the Grand Cru Burgundies as often as I’d like.

But if I’m looking at a specific Burgundy wine, it’s the Thierry Richoux Irancy. It’s rustic and wild and everything that I want out of red Burgundy. It smells like what I want my Burgundy to be, which is a little less refined, a little more wild in the most beautiful way. And that’s one that we sell a decent amount of—mostly just because I really like it.

What new category or region did you add this here that got the most traction? I’m going to guess. Hungary?

Yeah, definitely Hungary. It seems like a new region. But if you told the people in Hungary that they were a new wine region, they’d be like, “What are you talking about? Let me show you my ninety-year-old vines. You’re coming from California, you can shut right up about that.”

What category or region of wine would you like to be able to sell but you can’t?

Madeira. I love Madeira and I can’t sell it to save my life. People don’t want it. They should. I feel like if people tried it, they’d want it.

Are other beverage categories impacting the sale of wine in your restaurant?

N/A stuff is moving. It’s cliché to say it’s moving in January more than usual, but it is. Everyone’s doing Dry January. So, we’ve been developing a lot of N/A cocktails. We also have a really good relationship with a producer of a non-alcoholic wine called Semblance. It’s surprisingly good. Most non-alcoholic wine is not great, and the Semblance is actually remarkably tasty.

Do you use any beverages other than wine in your pairings?

My favorite thing to do is put a sake where people don’t expect it. Everybody says, “You put a sake in when you do a crudo, huh?” And you can, sure. But being able to put it with a piece of grilled meat, where it surprises people, is really a lot of fun.

Is there a category of wine that is gaining ground?

Actually, riesling, ironically. Because we’re in Encino, frankly, we’re a little slow on the uptake. We’re not cutting edge, like Silver Lake or Los Angeles proper. We’re a little bit out there in the boonies. A few years ago, we would have a hard time selling riesling because people would say, “I don’t like sweet wine.” You’re like, okay, but it’s not, so you should try it. And that has become less of an issue. People seem to be asking for riesling and when we pour the riesling on the pairing, they’re no longer surprised. That’s nice to see.

In 1993, Los Angeles native David Rosoff left the music business to launch his wine and restaurant career. He has managed and run the wine program at Los Angeles institutions Michael’s and Campanile, and was a founding partner at Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, Triple Beam Pizza and Hippo. In a Los Angeles Times profile, Patrick Comsikey had this to say: “Rosoff is like wine royalty in Los Angeles. He’s managed wine programs at i Cugini, Michael’s, Opaline, Campanile and most significantly perhaps at the Mozzaplex, where, with his all-Italian wine lists, he gently taught diners not to fear what they could not pronounce, or recoil from varieties produced in regions they’d never heard of, but rather to fall in love, as he did... If this city has a wine consciousness, Rosoff is one of its principal catalysts. He is like a vinous municipal treasure.”

This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.