Gianpaolo Paterlini runs the 2,000+ bottle, international wine list at Acquerello, his family’s destination restaurant in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood. He also manages the all-Italian list at the family’s more casual Sorella. —Stephanie Johnson
You indicate that Acquerello’s sales and prices have held steady since 2021. That’s despite coming off the pandemic last year.
Actually, 2021 was our best year ever even though we were open only eight months. People were going crazy ordering good wines. I think they had taken restaurants for granted before the pandemic, and when they realized what they were missing, they went out hard.
You manage a large list with about 35 percent of wines that are from little-known varieties or regions. What are some of those wines?
Our list covers every region of Italy, including the small and off-the-beaten path ones. Valle d’Aosta is one that we love. We usually have at least one Valle d’Aosta wine by the glass; right now, we have two. The region has some light and refreshing varieties like prié blanc and cornalin that we like to show. There are esoteric varieties in every region of Italy, like rossese and cruvin from Liguria, for example. Right now, we have a bellone from Lazio that’s almost like a dry riesling—it’s fruity, fresh and a little floral.
Your big successes included a Brunello and a Barolo, two classic regions. What sold those wines?
Cerbaie has stock of older vintages that can be very affordable. [Casanuova delle Cerbaie 2012 Brunello di Montalcino] is an older wine that’s solid and classic, from the north side of Montalcino, so it’s built on acidity and finesse rather than extract. Luigi Oddero’s 2016 Barolo Convento was made as a one-off, with fruit they would normally sell, but the 2016 was so good that they decided to bottle it under this label. I bought some and also found it so good that I bought more.
You mention guests have been asking about Champagne—and list three that you recommended…Agrapart Champagne Terroirs Extra Brut, Bérêche Et Fils Champagne Brut Réserve and Marc Hébrart Champagne Brut Rosé. Why do you think Champagne has become so hot at Acquerello?
I’ve been working on our Champagne list for years, and we’re at 325 selections now. I want Acquerello to be known as having one of the best Champagne lists in the world. Guests have come to expect it, and those who don’t know see the depth in that part of the list and ask about it. Also, it probably helps that Acquerello is a celebratory place. We get lots of birthdays and anniversaries, and we benefit from that, even though I think Champagne should also be a wine to enjoy every day.
You have two Italian whites that were staff favorites, one from the north [Manni Nössing 2021 Valle Isarco Kerner] and one from the south [Quintodecimo 2020 Greco di Tufo Jaune d’Arles]. Why did those get your staff so enthused?
Manni Nössing’s wines have more energy than some of his peers, with this minerality and acidity that’s just ripping, not as soft as some other kerners. We can sell it to a wide range of guests. It’s super dry and mineral, but also enough fruit to make it versatile with food. For me, Quintodecimo is one of top white winemakers in Italy. Luigi Moio is an oenology professor who started making wine in last 20 years or so. He uses barrels to give texture, and the first vintages were a bit too oaky, but now he’s dialed it back, and it just gives the wines an added dimension that other wines in the category don’t have.
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