Chris Shepherd, an F&W Best New Chef 2013 from Underbelly in Houston, explains why he loves Bandol, is so-so on Champagne and thinks Grüner Veltliner is the coolest wine.
Q. You were at culinary school when you first fell in love with wine, right?
A. Right. I’d go out and buy four Pinot Noirs, for example, from four different regions and try them all—this is Carneros, OK, and this is Santa Lucia Highlands, and this one, OK, this is what Sonoma Coast Pinots are like. I’d spend all my money on wine.
Q. Do you feel that working as a chef has given you special insight into wine?
A. Definitely. At one point I was working as a sous-chef at Brennan’s [in Houston], and I’d roasted some cocoa nibs for a dish. I put them in the Cuisinart and ground them up, and when I got a whiff, I thought, Oh, my God. I grabbed my buddy, who was the somm there at the time, and I said, “This is it! When people say a wine smells like chocolate, this is it!” It was an eye-opening experience.