Kevin Brodeur put in six years behind the bar at Gramercy Tavern, pouring as many glasses of wine as he did mixing drinks, thanks to the wine-heavy program put together by then-sommelier Juliette Pope. When an opening came up at Maysville, however, he decided to make the move across Madison Park, eager to bulk up his spirits knowledge with one of the most extensive whiskey lists in the US. What many people don’t know is that the restaurant’s wine list has long been one of NYC’s hidden gems, filled with small-production bottles and older vintages priced to move. Under Brodeur, the restaurant’s wine sales have gone up in the last year, while not losing any of its cachet as the place to drink brown spirits and eat fried oysters after work.
To what do you attribute the rise in wine sales?
I restructured the wine list to streamline it a bit. Before, we listed everything together, old vintages and reserve list bottles mixed in with younger, more affordable bottles, and a lot of young stuff from interesting producers got lost among the three-digit wines. So I broke them apart and it worked.
Rosé in January?
The rosé thing is out of control. I came from a seasonally driven restaurant at Gramercy; stocking up on rosé in May or June, and then trying to sell by Labor Day is the goal here. But instead I found I was ordering more and more of it because we were flying through it all summer long. For a place like us, moving five cases of rose a week, it was just nuts. And people are still asking for it. It’s even cool for guys to drink it now; it’s really penetrated the drinking culture of NY. It’s January and I’m already getting preorders for rosé.
You call out the Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Syrah as your biggest new success; how did that come about?
Pax Mahle came in here, and I tasted the whole lineup; I just fell in love with the whole Sonoma Coast style. It’s not too heavy or too light; it’s pretty. It falls into the ballpark of the Emeritus Pinot Noir [another best-seller], just with a different grape. And it goes really well with our food. We get lot of people thinking we’re Char #4, and expect barbecue—even wine reps keep trying to sell me Rhône style reds and rhône blends, thinking about that meat and fat quality, but that’s not what our menu does. With prettier dishes, prettier wines go better.
What do you wish people would drink more of?
Riesling. We do a lot of pork, and somewhere down the line, someone told me that pork and riesling is this secret pairing that’ll blow your mind. I tried it, and it is so good. But talking people into giving it a try, especially with an entrée, is so hard. It does okay by the glass, spring summer, but I wish I could get more people to wrap their head around it.
Yet they are willing to buy an ice wine from Idaho? (the Koenig Vineyards Snake River Valley Dessert, #1 seller on his After Dinner list)
That one’s my pet project. Something people don’t always realize is that we’re an American restaurant. All the bottles on the whisky wall are from America—we still have imported stuff, but not on the wall. But having a focus on American craft spirits and sweet wines for the after-dinner list is harder; there just aren’t many out there. That one comes from David Bowler; my rep brought it to me and I liked it. Now he’s like, ‘I can’t believe you’re moving so much of this.’ But people are like ‘Idaho?! Ice wine? Sure, I’ll try it.’”