The wine you recommend to go with your best-selling dish—buffalo tenderloin—is Robert Foley’s Charbono. Do people look at you a little strange when you suggest it?
We go through two cases a month of that wine. People love it—it’s a great match and a good value. But you also have to figure that since we serve elk, antelope and such, people who come here to dine are often in an adventurous mood.
Beyond charbono, though it looks like cabernet is still strong.
We try to offer many other things, but that’s the comfort zone. We don’t have a lot of big names on our list; we are a family-run restaurant so we like the list to be in keeping with that, focused on small, family-run wineries. But when people are looking for something full-bodied, cabernet is where they go.
Even so, pinot noir looks like it’s almost as strong as cabernet.
Fifty to sixty percent of the people who pick a wine on their own pick pinot noir: It’s the safe choice.
That’s rather remarkable, considering the state of pinot sales a decade ago.
Yeah, it is, And it’s funny, especially considering how much mediocre pinot noir is out there…
What’s the go-to white wine?
Chardonnay, although we try to steer them to other things. White Loires go really well with our food, and we’ve added a Santorini people just love—the Domaine Sigalas, It’s not even on the list, actually; we just keep it around to be able to offer something different to our regulars, and we’re going through a lot.
You mentioned a vernaccia nera as the biggest success for a new wine on your list. What is up with that?
It is so much fun. An über-obscure DOCG—Vernaccia de Serrapetrona—and we go through a case a week. Even if guest XYZ has 5,000 bottles in his cellar—and many of our guests do—we can be pretty certain he hasn’t tasted this before. And it’s wild stuff: , Colleluce harvests it in November; half is vinified as a table wine, half is dried like Amarone, and crushed in January. Then it’s blended and put in a tank with the Charmat method. It’s one of the most versatile wines I know. In all my years of doing this, I’ve never had more people come back and ask for a wine.
With such a far-ranging list, are there any region’s wines in particular that you find people asking for?
Argentina is coming up strong, picking up where Australia fell off. It’s mostly malbec, but I also carry Bordeaux blends, a tannat—only 50 percent malbec. Argentina is like New Zealand, in that it’s gotten stuck with just one wine identity, which is too bad, since they do so many other things well.
Do you move any Australian wines?
In the 1990s Australia was hot, but people are not gravitating there. When they do, it’s still for shiraz; it’s still a comfort zone thing. But there’s so much more—great old bush-vine grenache, or we have a verdelho we pull out for pairing menus with oysters or sashimi.
You’re one of the few restaurants responding to the poll that has noted a decrease in wine prices on your list.
We’re trying to find things to make the list less top-heavy. Those wines sell well, but I fear the perception of the guest might be that everything is expensive. So I’ve been actively looking for good value wines.
And where are you finding them?
Almost everywhere except for Bordeaux and Burgundy. It’s just a matter of time and energy.
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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