Inspired by Parisian oyster bars, Jeff Nace opened Neptune Oyster in 2004. The cozy space, with just 37 seats under a pressed-tin ceiling, now inspires people to queue for a seat before it even opens at 11:30am. Once inside, they might suck down a half-dozen oysters with glass of Muscadet or get a lobster roll with a glass of Sancerre. Increasingly, however, Nace finds himself fielding requests for wine pairing menus, which he makes up on the spot. “It’s just fun to do, and great for conversation. People love the stories and the education.”
Coastal Wines I try to keep the list mostly European, but our concept is coastal—most of the wines on the list are produced within ten miles of the ocean. Like the Cassis—I’ve been there, and it ties right in with the seafood brought into the port. It also helps me keep it conceptual and in the box. You know, there are so many wines out there; how do you conceive a wine list? I like the tie-in. I developed the idea over the first couple of years, then I started to get more passionate about that. And there’s more availability in [coastal wines], so now it’s become an obsession.
Santorini vs Chablis We do great with Santorini wines. Years ago, I worked at another restaurant as a wine buyer, and they brought this in. I hardly ever saw Greek wine, and I loved the taste. A few months after that, I sought out the island—a friend got married in Athens, and we took a trip over to Santorini. The cost back then was about $10 a bottle, ten years ago. Now, people come in and they know it—everyone knows assyrtiko now—but the same wine is now $27. But it’s such great wine, all that volcanic, minerally flavor, that lemon-oil finish. I think it rivals some premier cru Chablis, so [the price] makes sense. But I wish could go back in time and buy more!
Rosé in Winter In the old days we wouldn’t even have rosé on the menu from October until April—it wasn’t even available. Now you’re seeing more and more come out, and the season seems to be lasting longer. I can still get the [Domaine du] Bagnol Cassis from my rep, and in the old days that had dried up by August. I sold a couple bottles a couple nights ago. We get pretty savvy crowd; they know what they are drinking. It’s cold here, and they are imagining being in Provence, being warm, while they drink that rosé.
Dinner Tonight? I’m such an assyrtiko freak; I’d order the Sigalas Santorini. Right now, honestly, I’m loving the pan-roasted Georges Bank scallops. But also we have Nantucket Bay scallops with black trumpet mushrooms and turnip purée. The thing with these scallops is that they are only in season for two months of the year. So I’m trying to have them as much as possible.
is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.
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