Juliette Pope, of NYC’s Gramercy Tavern, on eating and drinking local - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Juliette Pope, of NYC’s Gramercy Tavern, on eating and drinking local

Juliette Pope’s trajectory at Gramercy Tavern began in 1997 as a line cook. She later worked the front of the house and began to learn about wine from Paul Grieco, who managed the list at the time. Pope became a captain, then a floor manager, and then assistant beverage director, before earning her current title, Beverage Director, in 2004. Today she manages a list of 600 wines in one of NYC’s most popular and beloved dining rooms.

On the continued popularity of Napa Valley cabernet
It’s not all a bunch of wine nerds walking through here. That’s the familiar place—Napa cabs and Russian River Valley pinot. Shafer [One Point Five] is familiar, Turley [The Label] is familiar.  Smith Madrone is not. I had a great visit with the Smith brothers last year and brought that back here. It hits the sweet spot under $100 and the staff has really cottoned to it because it is the anti-Napa: high-mountain, cool-climate fruit. The staff likes something with more structure and aromatics and Smith Madrone has that going on.

On Rioja
[La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza]—that is really the wine of the year. It started as 2004 and went to 2005: I can’t take it off because everyone loves it so much. Remarkable value and super classic. I can’t believe we get to pour a ten-year-old wine that people flip for and it’s under $20 a glass. Not too light, not too heavy. Yes, it’s American oak but it wears it well. López [de Heredia] is not for everybody nor is it priced for everybody. La Rioja Alta is moving five cases a week, easy. I haven’t had a break in it this past year, which is amazing availability. Nice to find a gem like that you can keep reordering.

On growing respect for NYS wines
Channing Daughters Sauvignon Blanc has always done well. Any three-month period where it’s on, it will be a top seller: It’s tasty and local.

When I was visiting the Finger Lakes, I thought Dr. Frank’s Pinot Gris was a great outlier. The name pinot gris is magic for most people. This is a great pinot gris and an incredible value, a lot of wine for $11 a glass. It’s one of the great discoveries this year. We’ve also been selling Red Tail Ridge Teroldego at $18, but it will never do the same sales, because no one knows teroldego. If it said pinot noir, it would sell out. We also have the Red Tail Ridge Pét-Nat Riesling, and it sells. Napa cab, yeah, people will order that, but the interest, the trust and respect are growing for New York wines. For guests, it used to be a matter of curiosity, followed by rejection. Now people think it’s good not only to eat local but to drink local as well, and I’m happy to facilitate that.

On trust and balance
In general I’m surprised by how many people leave it to us to decide. I feel like that happens more now. People are more interested in Burgundy in general; that’s captured the imagination of diners who have heard about it and want to make that leap. How the pendulum has swung back from overripe, over-oaked sweet styles. On volume alone, your Ramey chard will sell more than Fontaine-Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet. But Burgundies just under or right over $100 are selling well. People are looking for a more balanced glass of wine; people are trusting us with making the choice, putting themselves in our hands. We have more room to try out things and work with tables.

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.