As 2013 comes to a close, Eater checked in with several notable sommeliers and wine directors to find out what they have been picking out to drink themselves this year (it's not just wine!), and what they have been working on at their restaurants. We also asked them about their biggest challenges, because those New Year's resolutions are just around the corner. Here is what they said:
What did you BYO in 2013? What was a favorite of those bottles you brought for yourself to drink?
Michael Madrigale, Bar Boulud & Boulud Sud: Brought a bottle of 1962 Vogue Musigny to Piora. In the running for the best wine I've had all year.
Patrick Cappiello, Pearl & Ash: Dujac Clos de la Roche 1995 was my favorite from amongst Overnoy Ploussard 2011, Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos 2004, Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeux 2006, and others.
Erin Scala, The Musket Room: If it's a bunch of sommeliers getting together, I usually bring a bottle of wine from Virginia, so they can try something from my home state. But the favorite bottle I brought to an event this year was Thanksgiving-- I brought The Wine Love "Tempinot" Tempranillo from Spain. It was unbelievable and we paired it with a BBQ baked bean course.
Jeff Porter, Del Posto & Babbo: My favorites this year have been: Goutorbe Brut Rose NV, AJ Adam Kabinett 2004 (this was the wine we poured at our wedding), and Leroy "Meusault Perrieres" 2007. I don't get a lot of opportunity to taste white Burgundy and this was absolutely stunning with a late night fresh pasta and butter.
Pascaline Lepeltier, Rouge Tomate: One of my favorites was a 1972 Zinfandel from Joseph Swan brought for Patrick Cappiello's birthday - so unexpectedly expressive, juicy, alive and fresh - it was a special moment to drink it with Patrick.
Jordan Salcito, Momofuku Group: Wines I was able to BYO this year ranged from Le Coste "IGT Rosso" to 1974 Mastroberardino Taurasi to Fréderic Savart's "l'Accomplie." I brought a bottle of 1997 Valentini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and a magnum of "L'Anglore aux Foulards Rouges" to a friend's birthday lunch both of which showed beautifully, and I've become keen on bringing sparkling wines.
Matt Stinton, Hearth & the Terroir wine bars: I have been bringing a lot of Champagne to occasions that were not celebrations. Like hanging out in the park, or eating Hungarian Goulash. Champagne is a slippery, and expensive, slope. But worth every penny.
Grant Reynolds, Charlie Bird: I've had a few great nights at Lucali in Brooklyn this year. Some standout pizza wines have been Metras 'l'Ultime' Fleurie 2009, Allemand 'Chaillots' Cornas 2001, Mastrobernardino Taurasi Riserva 1977, and Bartolo Mascarello Langhe Nebiolo 2010.
Was there a beverage that wasn't wine that you were fond of in 2013? A distillate, beer, cider, soda, or bitters?
Grant Reynolds, Charlie Bird: Miss Lily's Body Good green juice definitely got me through some rough mornings.
Erin Scala, The Musket Room: These days I'm falling for saison all over again. I've been drinking a lot of saisons from Belgium, and have been checking out some domestic ones, too. A recent favorite was Perennial Artisan Ales "Saison de Lis."
Jordan Salcito, Momofuku Group: I am smitten with ciders from Normandy, and I fell hard for Etienne Dupont's Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie. Also, Eric Bordelet's entire line-up is spectacular. I especially love the Poiré Granit, made from 300 year-old pear trees.
Jeff Porter, Del Posto & Babbo: For me 2013 was rediscovering my love of beer. It started on my BBQ trip to Austin with a reintroduction to the beer of my youth: Shiner Bock. After a few cases of Shiner with some BBQ I came back to NYC inspired to find some regional beers. I fully admit these are not super geeky or hard to find but I found them delicious and perfect for me. My top five: Ithaca Beer Co. "Outdoor Harvest," Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. IPA, Main Beer Co "Mo" Pale Ale, Evil Twin Brewing "Falco" & Cottrell Brewing Co. "Old Yankee" Ale.
Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern: Charbay's distillate of Racer 5 IPA and also Cyril Zangs' "This Side Up" apple cider.
Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin: I love crisp and fresh beers. Reissdorf Kolsch, Gaffel Kolsch, and Jever in the summer, while I look for Weihenstephaner Lager and Ayinger Lager in the winter.
Pascaline Lepeltier, Rouge Tomate: I am a pretty big cider fan - with a family coming originally from Brittany and Normandy, it is perhaps DNA-driven - and last year at the Dive Bouteille in the Loire I tasted for the first time the Cidrerie du Vulcain from the Swiss Jura. Extraordinary ciders, poires, etc. from foraged, old varieties I had never heard off. They should land soon in NY. Pretty fantastic stuff, especially after a long shift.
Michael Madrigale, Bar Boulud & Boulud Sud: If it's beer, it's always Jever. The first time I had it was about five years ago at Zum Schneider and I was in the middle of a conversation and stopped mid-sentence and said, "Goddamn, that's some good beer!" I pretty much drink one after service every night.
Linda Milagros Violago, Contra: Cider! Anything by Cyril Zangs.
Lee Campbell, Reynard, Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman's, Achilles Heel: I live in a less-gentrified area of Bedford-Stuyvesant. When not shopping at food stores like Marlow & Daughters or the Brooklyn Larder, I end up at the local Korean produce store (which is actually very good) and the Key Food supermarket on Broadway. Boy, that Key Food has come up in the last couple of years. And when I was there last, I saw a bottle of Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace beer, so I bought it. Largely because my friend makes it, and also because I want the store to keep buying it and other items like it. But not necessarily because I wanted to drink some beer. As a sommelier, in order to preserve my health, I had to give up the serious enjoyment of beer and mezcal a long time ago. Long story short, I took that Sorachi home and drank it, and it was freaking delicious. I hadn't had it in a few years, and this was such a welcome reminder of how much fantastic shit there is out there.
Matt Stinton, Hearth & the Terroir wine bars: I have found myself leaning more into porters and stouts in the last few months of 2013. I have also reintroduced myself to the wonders of rye.
Patrick Cappiello, Pearl & Ash: Always Modelo Especial in the can. You usually see one in my hand every night at Pearl & Ash after 10 p.m.!
What's different at your restaurant or group since last year, beverage -wise?
Jordan Salcito, Momofuku Group: At Momofuku Ko, we've changed our pairing into an all-sparkling selection, and we've been including a couple of "rinses" - we rinse the glass with one beverage (vin jaune for one course, Hans Reisetbauer carrot eau-de vie for another) and then pour a different beverage into that glass, to create more dynamic pairings with a few of Ko's dishes. At Booker and Dax, we created "Thunderpeach!": our new wine cooler made from Finger Lakes Riesling and New York State peaches.
Thomas Pastuszak, The NoMad: We really embraced the release of the Coravin this summer and more than doubled our by-the-glass offerings, with some amazing higher-end wines, both young and old. It's been incredible to be able to serve someone their first taste of great old Barbaresco, or mature Burgundy, without them having to commit to an entire bottle of that wine; plus we're able to introduce more people to these great & rare older wines this way, and I feel like we're both preserving & promoting the appreciation of classic wines with bottle-age to a younger, eager generation, much more so than ever before.
Matt Stinton, Hearth & the Terroir wine bars: The biggest difference would have to be a growing focus on New World wines. Both Paul and I have been looking to expand our California selections both by the bottle and glass. There have always been great wines coming from the west coast. It seems that the price to quality ratio is really starting to line up. I also had a lot of fun with Pinot Grigio at Park Slope this last year. I found some great, complex and funky expressions. If you weren't familiar with the producers you were in for a surprise.
Michael Madrigale, Bar Boulud & Boulud Sud: We've started aging certain core cocktails to make the components balance better. We'll put them in all of the magnum bottles we have lying around. We do it for the Manhattan and Negroni. I have to give up to Gareth Tootell and Eduardo Porto Carreiro who developed this genius idea.
Jeff Porter, Del Posto & Babbo: At Babbo we introduced the Coravin and at Del Posto we introduced our "Community Wine" program called "Five for $5". Starting on Memorial Day we would pour and discuss five wines for $5! It was a ton of fun and will resume again in mid-January.
Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern: Cider has its own page now, instead of sharing with vintage beer. Also the sherry section got seriously freshened up.
Pascaline Lepeltier, Rouge Tomate: A "chenin chenin chenin" wine by the glass section, with at least three Chenin Blanc at all times. The selections change every 10 days or so. Chenin deserves WAY MORE LOVE.
Lee Campbell, Reynard, Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman's, Achilles Heel: Well, at Achilles Heel, we've created a beverage program rooted in classic cocktails and natural wines. And we've recently started a wine special where the staff opens a different bottle each night to serve it at a special price by the carafe and bottle. That way, they get to serve something new, and they get to try it as well. And honestly, as much as we want our customers to be drinking dynamic, delicious wines, we also want our staff to be doing the same. We're also trying to keep our wine prices approachable. Greenpoint has changed a lot, and we are part of that change. So it's important to honor the past of this corner of the neighborhood as a dock-front, while also acknowledging that we believe in purveyors and ingredients that aren't always so cheap.
What is the biggest challenge for you, right now?
Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern: Dealing with the ongoing proliferation of wine importers & distributors!
Matt Stinton, Hearth & the Terroir wine bars: My biggest challenge is keeping up with everything. New areas of quality, new countries that are coming into the marketplace (that have been making wine for centuries, mind you), new distributors that are breaking off from old distributors. All of that while still tasting and supporting the classics.
Grant Reynolds, Charlie Bird: Not breaking glasses is the big challenge.
Jordan Salcito, Momofuku Group: I would say the biggest challenge right now is also one of the most fun: working within the confines of the themes and limits we have created for our different wine lists, like the all-sparkling pairing at Ko. At Ko, the rinses we are doing with other beverages evolved from our need to pair within the realm of sparkling wines, and those pairings are consistently most guests' favorites. Some of the most creative pairings and aspects of our lists have been born out of these self-imposed limitations.
Michael Madrigale, Bar Boulud & Boulud Sud: Having enough quality time with my wife.
Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin: Wine allocations have gotten more challenging as the demand has increased.
And stay tuned for part two of the survey tomorrow.
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