The SOMM Journal

June / July 2018

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Page 53 of 132

{ } 37 Back in San Francisco, Saison Chef/Owner Joshua Skenes cre- ates remarkable dishes that give you goosebumps. It's no surprise that the restaurant is #37 on the 2017 The World's 50 Best Restaurants list, which is truly an amazing achievement! Saison is extremely unique and I have had the pleasure of eating there several times—if you can get in, it's unlike anything you will ever experience. I have known Noah Dranow for a very long time, since his nine years at Michael Mina's restaurant group and Bourbon Steak. He is no stranger to epic wines, having worked for his mentor Raj Parr and now for Saison partner Mark Bright, who also worked for Mina Group. Dranow learned a lot from his other mentor, Peter Palmer, when he worked at Farallon. You will hear it here first: Dranow was recently promoted to Director of Wine Programs for Saison Hospitality! The restaurant group will open Angler in San Francisco this summer, with an additional location arriving in Los Angeles in the fall. I can't wait to check them both out—hopefully you'll read about it in The SOMM Journal. At Saison, Dranow conducts blind tastings every Saturday and the entire staff participates. Wine training is very important for the company, whose exceptional wine program has won a Grand Award from Wine Spectator. Keep in mind that between regular diners and visitors from all over the world, Saison is booked three months in advance. When I ask why the restaurant pairs the Alfred Gratien 2000 Brut Millésimé with its incredibly delicious caviar, Dranow explains that the dish is wrapped in kelp and grilled; the kelp acts like an insulator protecting the caviar from the fire, but also gives it weight and richness. It needs a Champagne with maturity and extended lees contact, and this wine is aged 15 years on lees. The fact that it's fermented in oak makes it a spectacular match. The response is overwhelming and guests—some of whom are trying Alfred Gratien for the first time—love the pairing. We tried this match made in heaven during my visit and let me just say . . . wow! It needs to be on your bucket list. While at Saison, I had the privilege of meeting Olivier Dupré, CEO/President of Alfred Gratien and Gratien & Meyer, for the first time. Having visited Alfred Gratien a couple of years ago— where I fell in love with its wines right away—I was very excited. I will take the credit for bringing the 2000 to the U.S., because when I visited and heard this wine was aged for 15 years on the lees and was the current release, I had to taste it. We also tasted the 2005, aged for 11 years on the lees: Rich and complex, it has an insanely long finish. Tasting at Mourad The following day, we stopped by Mourad for lunch to taste the full lineup of Alfred Gratien and Gratien & Meyer, starting off with both the Cremant de Loire Brut and Cremant de Loire Brut Rosé. I was stunned to taste such elegant wines at that price point: When I asked Dupré how that was possible, he explained that both houses work closely together, which creates synergy. These are wines you can drink (or sell) daily without feeling guilty. We were also lucky to taste the Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé, the very rare Alfred Gratien 2006 Paradis, and the Alfred Gratien 2006 Paradis Rosé. Everyone was completely enam - ored by these wines, but the highlight of the day was when Dupré surprised the guests with the Alfred Gratien 1996 Millésimé and Alfred Gratien 1966 Millésimé! Still incredibly fresh and vibrant, the 1966 was one of the best Champagnes I've ever had. I love when I find a wine that completely overdelivers yet is still a bargain compared to wines of this complexity and quality. If you visit Epernay, Alfred Gratien is a must-see. Please let me know what you think of the Champagnes. One can dream, but I sure hope Dupré comes back every year with surprise wines—and that we can go back to Saison! Merci, Kim Beto, VP of Key Accounts, Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits Follow Kim on Instagram @drinkswithkimbeto. Saison Culinary Director Jonathan Dewolf pairs Alfred Gratien 2000 Brut Millésimé with the restaurant's caviar wrapped in kelp. Olivier Dupré is the CEO/President of Champagne Gratien, a house that has been in production for 154 years.

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