The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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Page 40 of 152

ON-PREMISE PATTER Meet Max Kuller MATCHING WINES AT TWO VERY DIFFERENT D.C. CONCEPTS by Scott Greenberg / photo by Mark Finkenstaedt M Max Kuller oversees the beverage programs at D.C.'s doi moi and Estadio. ax Kuller saunters over to our table, wearing a black T-shirt, jeans and well-worn Vans. His youthful grin is disarming and infectious. I am instantly aware that we are in the presence of someone who genuinely wants us to enjoy every aspect of our evening. And these days, Kuller is very busy delivering that experience for each patron, balancing his time between two very different culinary worlds, both requiring a deft hand at pairing wines that complement the unique cuisines. While he grew up in a household in Maryland with great food, collectible wines and extensive travel, Max initially gravitated towards a liberal arts education. After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Art, Kuller spent some time in Italy, falling in love with the local wines. Upon returning stateside, he discovered that the job market was a tad tight, so he took a job at Al Forno restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, where he continued to hone his Italian wine palate and expand his knowledge of craft beers. Graduate school brought Max back to Washington, D.C. in 2005, where upon completing his studies, he took a "temporary" position waiting tables at Proof, a high-end restaurant his father, Mark—an avid wine collector—had just opened. A three month stint turned into three years. When his father opened a second restaurant, the Spanish themed Estadio in 2010, Kuller was tapped to be Assistant GM, developing a Spanish-centric wine list on his way to becoming the permanent Wine Director for the project. Kuller's real challenge came in August of 2013, when Mark opened a third restaurant, doi moi ("new change"), a Southeast Asian venue that demanded, according to Max, "a unique wine list, featuring wines with aromatic freshness and vibrancy," like the 2011 Birichino Malvasia Bianca from California, which pairs nicely with the fiery regional cuisine. Managing the wine programs at both doi moi and Estadio definitely keeps Max busy looking for new wines, but seeing the smile on his face when he pours a special find for guests, I doubt he'd have it any other way. 40  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2013 TP1013_034-65.indd 40 9/24/13 4:10 PM

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