The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2014

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Page 49 of 132

october 2014  /  the tasting panel  /  49 imagine, though, the tweets and selfies that must come out of the dining room. You are only the fourth Sommelier/Wine Director in the history of Spago. You are following some legends: Mike Bonnacorsi, Kevin O'Connor and Chris Miller. Big shoes, my friend. I see that as a positive. I have a great program already in place that has been consistently excellent for all these years. I feel much honored to be here. Well said. So what will be the imprint of Phillip Dunn here? What are you going to change? What was the first thing you did? It would have to be Champagne. I really wanted to upgrade the by-the-glass program and the breadth of the selection. That includes all sparkling wines. We're really enjoying pouring by the glass from magnums. What about the list? I really want to expand the selections from Spain. I think there is great value and quality that we can feature with the cuisine here. I am particularly thinking of Priorat and Ribera del Duero. And, of course, Rioja. What about Sherry? I love Sherry. One of the most spectacular wine regions I have visited and the wines are superb. I think that if we were more "tasting menu" driven here I would have a better opportunity to feature them. Today we're tasting the Gamble Family Sauvignon Blanc. I love the story here: a great Napa family, barrel fermentation and Certified Organic! This wine is very unique, a great fruit profile blended with a fascinating terroir component. This would be fun to match with the cuisine here at Spago. I had lunch here last week, and shame on me, I'd forgotten how wonderful the cuisine is here. I won't make that mistake again. So how does the Northwest culinary scene differ from here? What I love here is the diversity of the cuisine. Sometimes in the Northwest you can get pigeon-holed with the local fare. Salmon, Dungeness crab, etc. Not that I don't miss it, but here we have the chance to work with about anything you can imagine. The produce in Southern California is amazing, and the growing season is much longer. The farm- ers' markets here are a joy. So what did you do wine-wise to match up? Well, to be honest, I went rosé crazy for the summer. I had 24 selections! Magnums, half bottles, sparkling— it was a real pink wine festival from all over the world. The waitstaff and customers loved it. One of the things I noticed was the excellent, and large, selection of German Rieslings. From the vintages, I know that many of them are legacies. In fact, you recommended and served me a German Pinot Noir! So, who's going to drink them? That's a great question, Fred. We have to recommend them on a regular basis. The great thing is that Riesling is such a versatile grape variety and matches up well to many dishes. Do we sell as many as would like? No, but we're definitely moving in the right direction. You have a great history of wine education begin- ning at Canlis. Rob Bigelow, MS; Shayn Bjornholm MS. What are you doing here at Spago? I just hired an assistant; she is an Advanced Diploma holder, from, believe it or not, the Northwest. She is going to lead that charge. For a long time the staff did a lot of blind tasting. Our focus will be to target regions and varieties that will focus on sales. Let's be honest, this is Spago. Chef Puck's culinary talents are always going to be the draw. No doubt! And that is why we work hard to find comple- mentary wines by-the-glass and on the wine list that match well. Our tasting menu pairings will always reflect this. So at night you have the stars, captains of industry, professional athletes. What percentage of wines sold are those that you and your team recommend? That's a tough question. With a lot of leeway I would think that it is about fifty-fifty. We have a number of guests that know exactly what they want. We also have a number of very knowledgeable wine enthusiasts that are regulars. As I've gotten to know them I actually select wines that I know match their preference and price point. What about the world of wine do you want to change? And remember you can only use your pow- ers for good! I really would like for everyone that is seated to have the chance to enjoy a great food and wine pairing. Especially to think outside the box, try something new, and especially have fun doing it.

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