The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH FRED DAME A Conversation with Petra Polakovicova Beverage Director, Epic Roasthouse, San Francisco photo by John Curley Fred Dame: I see you smiling when you walk in on this beautiful day in San Francisco. You've been at Epic Roasthouse since its opening six years ago. Is it the new Bay Bridge, the America's Cup or just are you just happy to be here? Petra Polakovicova: How can you not be happy to be here? I've had the chance to work with Pat Kuleto, Pete Sittnick and Chef Jan Birnbaum and I work with a superb crew. We have a talented team and a successful wine program, I have wonderful regular customers and if you get down, just take a look out the window at the San Francisco Bay! your sister restaurant Waterbar featuring seafood. Are the sales profiles that radically different? Petra: The volume at both is pretty much the same. But of course the mix is dramatically different. For us, it's big Napa Cabernet that is king. For Waterbar, Chardonnay is the variety of choice. Steve Izzo, the Beverage Director at Waterbar and I are constantly talking with each other and of course have the opportunity to share lists. That's a huge advantage. Fred: What else are they drinking? Petra: Domestic Pinot Noir is very popular, and while we still sell a lot of Russian River, the Central Coast wines have really come on strong. We also do very well with our Italian selections, Barolo, Barbaresco, Tuscan wines. Fred: What about Bordeaux? It must still have followers? Petra: We have a good list but find that the majority of sales are in the value wines from the Bordeaux region. We do of course have the Grand Cru wines available. We actually sold a bottle of Château Pétrus at brunch last week! Fred: What's your guilty pleasure when you are drinking wine? Petra: Slovakian wines of course—we need more of them! Fred Dame engages Petra Polakovicova in wine talk. Fred: Point taken. I brought today two small-production wines from the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard. They're now making small—and I mean small— lots of wines. Eighty cases of the Solomon Hills Chardonnay 2011 and 200 cases of this Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2009. Petra: Fred, you know I love Pinot Noir. You just told me that the Solomon Hills Chardonnay is from ungrafted vines—amazing. This Bien Nacido Pinot Noir is just beautiful. I'm putting it on the wine list post haste. Fred: So you have the wonderful Epic Roasthouse menu—featuring, of course, meat. Next door you have Fred: OK, you got me on that one. How about varietal? Petra: I am a huge fan of Syrah, especially with Epic's menu. I find the smokiness on the steak (from the woodburning oven) complements the flavors of Syrah. I am also finding that more people are asking for it rather than us having to hand-sell it. I have a nice Syrah section on the wine list. I love to recommend Syrah and then watch the customers enjoy them. Fred: What's the first thing you would change about the world of wine? Petra: Get rid of the snobiness: sommeliers, waiters, customers—anyone who doesn't get the beauty of the social nature of wine. Wine should bring people together, not be intimidating. 32  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2013 TP1013_001-33.indd 32 9/23/13 10:34 PM

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