Renee-Nicole Kubin at Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst, California on European Whites and Uruguayan Tannat

Renee-Nicole Kubin did sommelier stints at Charlie Trotter and Gary Danko, to name just two of her more prominent placements, before taking over the management of her mother’s iconic restaurant, Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst, in California’s Sierra Foothills. She’s assembled a wine program that is as remarkable as it is unusual for such a remote place.

Can you describe your restaurant?
My mother was born and raised in Austria, so both the cuisine and the wine program is dominated by continental themes. We use the local produce of course, but we’re a European restaurant with a continental cuisine. So in general people are excited to come here, the way they get excited about eating in another country, it’d like they’re traveling without going anywhere.

Where is the heart of your wine list?
Many of our pairings draw from Hungary, Austria, Central Europe. We love grüner and riesling, furmint, weissburgunder and blends—that’s the heart of our lineup. Every night’s pairing uses wines from at least five countries. That’s one of the things guests walk away with; the idea that the world has a lot of great wine.

But your big surprise wine was a tannat.
I know, from Uruguay! I think that people know in general that South American provides them with value, so they’re already looking in that direction. If they’re looking at South American then they might be looking outside of Argentina and Chile, just to try something new, and they hit on Uruguay. I don’t know for sure that they think tannat is a grape, but they’re willing to try it. I pour it with the lamb and venison dishes, and it’s really delicious.


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