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Sommeliers of the Year 2012

This is the year of the little guy. F&W’s Sommeliers of the Year have created phenomenal lists that often combine the world’s most famous wines with rigorously selected bottles from small, independent producers or up-and-coming areas.

Eric Espuny: The Royce at The Langham, Pasadena, California

Sommelier: Eric Espuny
Sommelier Eric Espuny.
Photo © PEDEN+MUNK.

Why He Won For this elegant French restaurant, he packs his cellar with undiscovered new stars from his native France, along with great, often hard-to-find vintages from revered producers.

Top Value on His List “If I were on a budget, I’d choose the 2009 Les Halos de Jupiter Rasteau [a southern Rhône red] made by Philippe Cambie ($60). You get everything. It’s full, generous and jammy, yet easy to drink. It’s very satisfying.”

Aha Wine “An old vintage of Cahors from my dad’s cellar when I was a teenager. I realized right away that wine could be complex, and that it could generate emotion.”

Best Pairing at The Royce Chef David Feau’s lightly creamy lentils with green peas and shaved black Périgord truffles, paired with a red 2009 Hautes Côtes de Nuits Burgundy from Gros Frère et Soeur ($75). “The wine is extremely fresh and precise. There’s a sort of communion with the earthiness of the truffles.” 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.; 626-585-6410.

Matthew Mather: Pizzeria Locale, Boulder, Colorado

Sommelier: Matthew Mather
Sommelier Matthew Mather.
Photo © Mayra Galvez.

Why He Won He’s revolutionizing the idea of pizza wine. It doesn’t have to be a dull mass-market red; it can be a brilliant and unknown wine from one of Europe’s up-and-coming regions.

Idea Behind the Wine List “The basic concept was to have a collection of compelling, off-the-beaten-track wines that are really delicious with pizza: wines that aren’t fiercely tannic, that don’t have a ton of new oak, and that are fresh and youthful, like the 2010 Tami Frappato ($39) from Sicily.”

The Value of Value “I think it’s important to drink $10 wines. It’s great to taste expensive bottles, but you expect those wines to be nothing short of amazing. So it’s fun to try great $10 or $20 bottles, and to be aware of why they make sense at those prices.”

Best Pizzeria Locale Pairing Chef Jordan Wallace’s mushroom pizza with a 2010 Berger Zweigelt ($31), an Austrian red. “The wine has peppery, slightly gamey, spicy notes that are perfect with mushrooms. And it comes in a liter bottle with a beer cap.” 1730 Pearl St.; 303-442-3003.

Vanessa Treviño Boyd: Philippe Restaurant + Lounge, Houston

Sommelier: Vanessa Treviño Boyd
Sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd.
Photo courtesy of Vanessa Treviño Boyd.

Why She Won Her expertly curated list of French and Californian wines offers value at every price.

“I want everyone to drink Champagne! We keep the prices low to give people a chance to have it. I could drink Champagne on its own at any point of the day—brunch, after work—as long as it’s lively, pretty and balanced.”

Philippe-Perfect Wines “I look for wines with bright acidity. Our richer dishes do well with wines that have a bit of spice, especially from the Rhône, like Domaine de Monpertuis’s 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe ($95).”

Must-Have Wine “Every list I ever make will have red Burgundy from Chambolle-Musigny, like the 2008 JF Mugnier ($169). It’s my favorite village—elegant and feminine, and the fruit is so pure.”

Best Philippe Pairing Chef Philippe Schmit’s duck dish, My Darling Clementine, with Domaine Huet’s off-dry 2009 Clos du Bourg Vouvray ($52). “The wine is rich enough to stand up to the citrusy sauce.” 1800 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-439-1000.

Jeremy Quinn: Telegraph, Chicago

Sommelier: Jeremy Quinn
Sommelier Jeremy Quinn.

Why He Won He champions naturally made European wines by talking them up to guests one table at a time.

Why He Loves Natural Wines “I think that wines made without sulfur or chemicals in the vineyard or winery, using biodynamics, can help us discover new flavors in terroirs that we thought we already understood. A few years ago, I had a Dard & Ribo Crozes-Hermitage, which is natural, and it blew my mind. I didn’t know wines from that appellation could taste that way! It inspired this list.”

Pinot Alternative “When guests ask me for Pinot Noir by the glass, which I don’t have, I pour them a Pineau d’Aunis [a Loire Valley red], like the 2008 La Grapperie Adonis from Renaud Guettier. It’s light-bodied, with good acidity and fruit, so it fits the characteristics of a Pinot—and it’s something new.”

Best Telegraph Pairing Chef John Anderes’s veal sweetbreads with a cherry puree and the full-bodied 2010 Domaine de Gioielli rosé ($48) from Corsica. “The combination of textures and flavors is gorgeous; earthy mineral and succulent fruit.” 2601 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-292-9463.

Ted Glennon: Restaurant 1833, Monterey, California

Sommelier: Ted Glennon
Sommelier Ted Glennon.
Photo © Christopher Iatesta.

Favorite Central Coast Producers “There are a lot of small, independent winemakers doing remarkable things, like Chris Weidemann at Pelerin. That is the winery to watch in the Monterey region. His 2007 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($90) is a rock star. And Peter Cargasacchi’s Point Concepción Salsipuedes Pinot Noir ($42), from a coastal vineyard, is a solid value.”

Best Restaurant 1833 Pairing Chef Levi Mezick’s crispy hen egg with a 2000 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia rosé ($50). “It’s a poached egg rolled in prosciutto, dusted in panko and fried. Both the dish and the wine, an 11-year-old rosé, are surprises.” 500 Hartnell St.; 831-643-1833.

Why He Won His playfully annotated list offers some of Monterey’s best producers, along with prized European wines sourced from collectors.

Jennifer Ingellis: Brassica Mediterranean Kitchen & Wine Bar, St. Helena, California

Sommelier: Jennifer Ingellis
Sommelier Jennifer Ingellis.
Photo © Alex Farnum.

Why She Won At this Napa Valley restaurant, she cleverly structures her list to showcase small, local wineries and then supplements those with superb international selections.

“I work with so many great up-and-coming Napa producers and wineries, like Favia, Larkin and Arietta. There are a lot of cool people behind those labels.”

The Brassica 12 Ingellis features an ever-changing selection of 12 wines from small-production wineries in Napa that don’t have tasting rooms. Guests can have a taste, a glass or a full bottle, and they can also buy a bottle to go.

Making Her Winemakers Work “On Saturday nights, we have a local winemaker or winery owner come in and walk the dining room for a couple of hours. They talk to guests, splash them some wine and get people excited about their work.”

Best Pairing At Brassica Chef Darren McRonald’s herb-scented, slow-braised Winemaker Pork with Arietta’s 2009 Quartet ($67), a red blend from Napa. “There’s a little Cabernet Franc in the wine that works really well with the pepperiness of the pork and the Cabernet in the sauce.” 641 Main St.; 707-963-0700.

Michael Madrigale: Boulud Sud, New York City

Sommelier: Michael Madrigale
Sommelier Michael Madrigale.
Photo © Evaan Kheraj.

Why He Won The heart of his list is an extraordinary collection of wines from both the familiar and the unfamiliar vineyards of the Mediterranean.

On Salt in Wine “Salinity is a very important quality for the wines at Boulud Sud, because of all the seafood dishes and Mediterranean flavors. Coastal wines, like those from Greece’s Santorini, are my go-to. The smokiness, saltiness, rich texture—they crush everything!”

Provence’s Greatest Red “I have an entire page of Bandol. Of all the wine lists I’ve written, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of. I have a collection of Domaine Tempier Bandol from 1987 to 2009 that I sourced from collectors and retailers, as well as from the winery directly. It was an absolute labor of love.”

Best Pairing at Boulud Sud Chef Aaron Chambers’s North African–spiced, savory Lamb Cleopatra with the 2010 Etna Rosso ($49) from Sicily’s Tenuta delle Terre Nere. “The wine’s sweet black fruit and fresh acidity make it so genius with that dish.” 20 W. 64th St.; 212-595-1313.

video Pairing Tips from Sommeliers

Published April 2012
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