June Rodil MS of Houston’s March on Tasting Menus and a Sicilian Boom - Wine & Spirits Magazine

June Rodil MS of Houston’s March
on Tasting Menus and a Sicilian Boom

After opening more than a dozen restaurants with McGuire, Moorman, Lambert Hospitality in Austin, June Rodil remained a partner in June’s All Day when she moved to Houston in 2019. Filipino by birth, Texan since a child, Rodil partnered with Felipe Riccio in Goodnight Hospitality. Riccio, a Dreamer from Mexico, had met Rodil when he started studying wine with David Keck MS at the age of 22; she didn’t know he was a chef until he presented a tasting menu at an event organized for the wine-writer Jon Bonné. Rodil was impressed and they soon developed Goodnight Hospitality, a partnership along with Peter and Bailey McCarthy, who bring financial, development and design expertise. The team opened two restaurants in 2019—Montrose Cheese & Wine and Rosie Cannonball—with a plan to open March, sharing a name with the fateful month it was to launch in 2020. Opened a year later, March has emerged from the restaurant challenges of the pandemic as a leading light in Houston’s dining scene. Chef Riccio’s tasting menu, seasonally focused on different locales of the Mediterranean, is accompanied by a cellar with more than 1,500 selections. Mark Sayre, the Beverage Director for Goodnight Hospitality, is handling the list at March, and Rodil enjoys spending some time on the floor. She recalls one evening this past year when a customer asked about a magnum of Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin.

“It was the 2019,” Rodil recalls, mentioning that she was not so proud to sell it. “I said, ‘Okay, if you want to.’ I’m never, like, ‘Yeah, go balls out. It’s going to be amazing.’ I’m super honest. I love this producer in terms of being open. I’m going to say this is what the vintage is like, but it is grand cru and it is a magnum, I don’t know. And they said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ And so we did it. We decanted it, and it really opened up. They were so kind and shared it, and I was, like, ‘Whoa, this is really open.’ It’s great to see really high-end producers like that, and the styles that are coming across with climate change, with openness—the ability to open something and not have to wait, that it’s still drinkable and not completely closed.” —Joshua Greene

What categories of wine are most interesting to you right now?

Right now, for me, I’m just back in classics. We’ve got such a great team, so my philosophy right now is to drink what you like, which, unfortunately, is Champagne, Burgundy and Barolo. They’re quite expensive, so less is more, rather than trying to just drink anything and everything. I’ll taste with the teams but they really have their footprint on the programs; I have just consumed less so that I can drink the things that I really want to.

At March, for our wine list, those three categories are extremely important. We have an extremely hefty Champagne, Burgundy and Piemontese selection, first, because it goes with the cuisine. We’re very Eurocentric. The philosophy is Mediterranean, but also throughout the scope of Europe. Those are more of our cellared products. And then we always add onto the cellar based on our menu focus. So, for instance, our newest menu focus is Catalàn, which includes the Pyrenees of France. So you’re going south into Valencia, then a lot of true Catalàn as well as French Pyrenees, Roussillon, Irouléguy, things like that.

Is there a category of wine that’s losing ground?

California. The identity of the restaurant is gaining traction, so it’s really galvanizing what it is to the public. And part of that is originality and understanding the culture of specific regions and areas. So people are naturally gravitating towards those regions and areas whenever they’re asking the somm. And the somm is also going to naturally gravitate towards those regions and areas whenever they’re looking for a pairing. We do have a hefty California list because, when we started, we wanted to ensure that those consumers had something to drink that was of the quality level that we wanted. But I would say that it was definitely losing momentum in the last year. Tremendously, frankly.

Is there a new category you added to the list that has taken off?

So, we did Sicily last season and it was bonkers, crazy. Everybody loved, loved, loved it. And we did an entirely Sicilian regional pairing and people absolutely loved it. Sicilian wines have had some traction, mostly the reds. I think the most surprising thing for people were the whites, the still whites, because they’re texture-driven. The still whites were great pairings. I think it happens that a lot of wine people—we just tend to love whites more than reds when we’re pairing foods. And so there’s this balance of maybe two-thirds white, one-third red that starts happening with tasting menus, and you see a lot of people be skeptical about it at the very beginning and then end up really falling in love with it. The weight and the texture of the Sicilian whites were phenomenal.

I think that, a lot of times, pairings can be an afterthought in tasting menus. People might use what they happen to have, or what they need to move, or what theoretically goes well with the cuisine. And that’s actually good business because you’re trying to turn over your product and your inventory. So it is a risk to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to invest in all of this Sicilian wine—in addition to the cellar we already have—in hopes that people are going to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m jazzed about this regional pairing and this regional cuisine, and it all goes together and I’m learning something new.’ So the fact that people really gravitated toward it and were able to sell out of the Sicilian wines, the entire pairing menus, is pretty magnificent.

Do you use beverages other than wine in your pairing menus?

Absolutely. For instance, we did a Greek menu and we had this wonderful version of a mezze spread, and there were just so many things going on that there wasn’t one wine that was going to pair with it. And it was such a cultural influence to have a course like that in a classic tasting menu—it has bread, and you’re eating with your hands, and there are olives and crab butter…it had fish and meats and cured everything. So we paired it with Greek beer and a shot of ouzo. So it was just a complete experience-based pairing rather than, ‘let me find the perfect wine for it’—because that just wasn’t going to happen.

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

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