Maximilian Kast, of The Fearrington House in North Carolina, on off-dry reds and Madeira - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Maximilian Kast, of The Fearrington House in North Carolina, on off-dry reds and Madeira

Maximilian Kast got into wine while studying history at the University of Montana, and working in restaurants on the side. After a couple years at the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana, he moved to North Carolina to take on the beverage program at The Fearrington House, a Relais & Château property just outside of Chapel Hill. He’s been there since 2007, manning a list that spans some 1,500 labels.

On Chilean wine Chile is really exciting right now. I discovered this wine (Garcia & Schwaderer 2010 Maule Valley Vigno) at a Chilean wine tasting last year—it really struck me. It’s not just super fruity; it has a lot of complexity, secondary notes—and it’s completely different that any other carignan I’ve ever tasted. I like their pinot noir as well—it’s elegant, with spice and leathery undertones.

On chenin blanc Guests are asking for chenin blanc more than ever before, and Huet is the most well known name. But it’s chenin in general; back in September we did a dinner with Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst from South Africa and I can’t tell you how excited guests were to see the potential of South African chenin. Carême Le Clos [Vouvray] also does really well for us. It’s a completely different style than the Huet [Le Haut Lieu Sec]—a really big wine, opulent and rich.

On playing with sweetness There is a lot of sweetness in the food here, and it’s true that I use a fair amount of off-dry wines here. And I’ve had to learn a lot about red wine and sweetness. I have to say, for a dish like the butternut squash [poached in maple syrup]—everyone pooh-poohs California fruit-forward pinot noir, but if there was ever a time to drink a Rochioli Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, this dish would be it. There’s the natural sweetness of the squash, the maple syrup—it just works.

If you were having dinner tonight at The Fearrington House, what’s the one dish you’d definitely order and what would you drink with it? Beef tartare with cured egg yolk, wild mushrooms underneath, a vegetable ash meringue—again, you’ve got that balance of sweet and earthy—I had it the other night with the Broadbent Ten Year Old Madeira, and it was fantastic. I do a lot with Madeira. We’re lucky that we’re here in the South, and we have the historical connection. It was the most popular wine on the East Coast until the end of the 19th century, and a lot of the trade went on down here, so it’s cool to tell the story. For me, this is the coolest thing about wine. It’s the story of humans—of human aspirations, agriculture, economics, travel around the world.

is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.