What is the first great Italian wine you ever had?
An ’85 Granbussia Riserva from Aldo Conterno. When I was working at Veritas, Tim Kopec, the restaurant’s wine director, and I went out to Park Smith’s house—Smith is a collector and one of the owners of Veritas—to help serve a dinner. At the dinner he had people like Ann Colgin with her husband, Joe; the Krankls from Sine Qua Non; Don Bryant; Robert Parker... At one point we were told that we had some time and Park said, “Just pull something from the cellar and enjoy it. Whatever you want.” So Scott Bryan, the chef, went into the cellar, pulled a bottle and served it blind. And I was totally blown away by everything about this wine. It seemed Italian, but I’d never had an Italian wine that was quite like that. And ever since then it has been one of my trophy wines and one of my great, great wine memories.
Why do you like Italian wines particularly?
I believe that many Italian wines are some of the best food wines in the world—traditionally and historically, they weren’t wines you drank by themselves, but with food. And when you have them with food, it brings the experience to a whole new level. More than anywhere else there is a synergy in Italy between the two, where the whole is better than the parts.
What first piqued your interest in wine?
I was living in France, and one night my roommates and I ended up outside one of the fountains—I was in Aix-en-Provence—and there was a bet as to whether or not someone had the guts to jump into this fountain. We were a large group, and at the end of it we all ended up in the fountain, and we all owed each other a lot of money. So we decided, while we were in the fountain, “Well, why don’t we take all the money that we owe and all buy nice bottles of wine, and we’ll have a wine tasting.” And this wine tasting just blew my mind. We were all taking notes and discussing it, and it was really, kind of, my first eye-opening experience.