The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2014

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july 2014  /  the tasting panel  /  91 Wow, from Scotland to the sunniest places on earth. I'm trying to picture you in the aloha shirt with a deep tan. I worked in Hawaii first but left the U.S. after my visa expired. I then went to Sydney and made my way back. In Sydney, I started off as the bar manager and later took on the entire beverage program at the hotel. That's where my real passion for wine began. It was wine in a region I really didn't know much about. It's there I began a real learning path and in particular fell in love with Clare and Eden Riesling. After a second stint in Hawaii, I went to Scottsdale and we opened Proof, an American Canteen. The restaurant had an incred- ible beverage program with 50 spirits, 50 wines, 50 beers all of craftsman quality and all produced in the United States. It was incredibly successful. Define successful. We doubled revenues in the second year and we changed the perception of the whole property. We had a formal steakhouse but it was the casual atmosphere of the property that the guests fell in love with. Imagine the staff at a Four Seasons wearing jeans and Western shirts! So here you are at Quattro in the Four Seasons in Palo Alto. What's the big difference? I've never worked at a property like this. During the business week, it is busy all day. And I mean busy! From four until nine each day the bar and restaurant are buzzing. We bridge the weekends with Uncorked Fridays: You bring in a bottle and we'll serve it to you with no corkage. And we have a half-off sale on wine list items the same day. We encourage a more casual atmosphere on the weekends. Do you have local clientele? A very good, one which is crucial on weekends. Our weekend brunch and prix-fixe Sunday Suppers have been extremely successful. How would you describe the cuisine at Quattro? Quattro's Executive Chef, Marco Fossati, is from Liguria. He's a craftsman of great pasta the likes of which I haven't experienced before. But we also have a contemporary Californian twist. It's a good thing I brought Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba today. This is the longest interview I've done without a glass of wine. I love Barbera, the unsung hero of Piedmonte. Especially when Pio Boffa is making it! I love the bright acidity. It's sad that people forget about it. It really opens up the palate and has such wonderful bright fruit. Agreed, and I love that unique saline quality this variety has. It makes me want to march into the kitchen and see what the pasta chef can whip up for us. So, the wine program—what is the line-up here? The wine program is a melting pot, with wine from differ- ent cultures. An emphasis on Italian varietals but we are just down the road from Napa and Sonoma. Ridge Winery is a stone's throw from here! I believe strongly that it's important that we embrace our neighbors. So is big California Cabernet Sauvignon the big dog here? You'll be surprised that it's not. We have them for sure. But our biggest wines by the glass are Pinot Noir and, believe it or not, Sauvignon Blanc. OK, you're right: I'll have to be convinced. We feature some of the very best wines in these categories. I have to give our staff here a lot of credit for making these wines so popular. Staff training—do you do a lot of it? A lot of it. It's crucial to the success of the wine program that they participate. The team here brings new offerings forward and we discuss them at staff tastings on Fridays. They bring their notes and have at it. We don't invite the wineries or reps to visit very often. So what is Graham's vision for the future? We respect the Italian varietals and the major ones deserve to be featured on the list. But that doesn't mean that there's no room for other great wines. And we will always have a lot of love for California. So to finish up, what is the one thing about our wonder- ful world of wine that needs changing? I feel that there are many regions and varieties that are underrepresented: Condrieu for instance, or especially my passion, Australian Riesling. Wines that are dry and crisp that pair beautifully with cuisine; no fruit bombs and residual sugars. We would like to see more elegance in the wines.

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