The SOMM Journal

October / November 2015

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130 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 WHEN RESTAURANT VETERAN MICHAEL COLL opened Wine Disciples this summer, he didn't stray far from his spiritual home in the Mediterranean food culture. The former longtime Wine Director at Estiatorio Milos, the upscale mainstay of Greek dining in Manhattan, opened a restaurant that recalls his past lives at Ristorante Ecco in San Francisco and Campanile in Los Angeles. But in his new incarnation, he created a place that seems more Italian-inflected than Italian-themed. "Italy is probably one of my favorite regions in the world. I think that's why we ended up doing that in the kitchen—there's still so much discovery," Coll said. "For me, there is nowhere else in the world that makes the same connection between wine and food." To help convey that connection, he spirited Chef Brian Leth away from Brooklyn's Vinegar Hill House to create a wine-friendly menu of tasting plates, a few heartier dishes, a rotating list of olive oils served by the ounce and wood-fired pizzas. Driven by fresh and local (when possible) ingredients the menu can neatly two-step with nearly 400 wines from across the globe. And, with the separate sister wine shop, if diners like what they drink, they can buy it next door. There, Coll has capacity for 800 offerings—400 more chances for discovery. At the same time Coll is creating a road map for a new kind of drinking, dining and buying experience—his may be the first such sister enoteca and wine shop in the city— he's also a pioneer in a patch of lower Midtown better known for its flea and flower markets than its fine fare. Positioned on West 29th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, Wine Disciples landed in a block slowly transitioning from light manufacturing to a dining destination in the making: It is among four restaurants and bars to launch within steps of each other this summer. "Quite frankly, I don't know what this place will become, but we're positioned to be accessible and help people become devotees," he said. Building a List At Wine Disciples, Coll wanted to create a place where people could discover a variety of wines without breaking the bank, so the markup on the restaurant side is only twice, instead of the more standard three to four times. "We just want to be accessible. If we're charging only $50 for a bottle, people can discover," he said. While you won't find a lot of familiar labels, you won't be alienated either: Coll, who favors small producers, is a gentle and knowledgeable guide, eschewing what he calls "the secrecy and myth built up around wine." "I'm not the kind of wine buyer who buys for himself," he says. There is a value in wine from everywhere— you shouldn't be too narrow." The bottles range from $14 for a Mosel Riesling or an Archetto Mirola (Marche) to $600 for Hundred Acre 2010 "Precias" (Rutherford)—with lots in between. Coll opened with a list leaning towards Italy, France and America with smatterings of Austria and Germany. Next up, he says, are South America, Spain, Slovenia and Hungary. Also in the works: a virtual sommelier app so diners can save their preferences and call up their wine history on their next visit. closing time AT WINE DISCIPLES ENOTECA AND WINE SHOP, MICHAEL COLL PIONEERS FOOD AND WINE IN LOWER MIDTOWN MANHATTAN THE SIDE BAR Creating Wine Devotees by Lana Bortolot / photo by Evan Sung

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