At work, top sommeliers taste and pour some of the most sought-after wines in the world. But what do they uncork for dinner at home? Some of America's most forward-thinking sommeliers tell us their personal house wines.
A.O.C., Los Angeles
2002 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc ($20)
Styne, co-owner and wine director of this bustling Wilshire District wine bar, says, "I take bottles of this Napa Valley Cab Franc home from the restaurant all the time, partly because it has just the right balance and structure to go well with a lot of foods, but also because it's just so likable and easy to drink hanging out with friends."
2001 Au Bon Climat Hildegard ($36)
Wright, a sommelier for 19 years and now the general manager of this romantic spot overlooking Biscayne Bay, goes for this unusual blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligote, "a kind of American tribute to the original plantings of Burgundy's great Corton-Charlemagne vineyardand a great value, too."
Seastar, Bellevue, WA
Lillet Blanc ($22)
Liedholm presides over a staff of six trained sommeliers at this sleek seafood restaurant. After work he likes to relax with Lillet Blanc, a wine-based French aperitif. "It's a perfect reprieve when you want something a little different. I drink it on the rocks with an orange twistthe twist just seems to lift the Lillet's exotic aromas right out of the glass."
The Breakers, Palm Beach, FL
2002 Calera El Niño Pinot Noir ($13)
When she's not managing the extensive wine programs for this legendary resort's multiple restaurants, Philip reaches for an affordable Pinot Noir. "It's hard to find a really delicious bottle of Pinot for less than $25, but this has great cherry and strawberry fruit, light tannins and not too much oak. It's true Pinot Noir, but light and easy to drink."
2003 Rainer Wess Riesling Pfaffenberg ($27)
Sommelier Tyree turns to Austrian whites when he's not on the floor of Tru's art-filled postmodern dining room. "The 2003 heat wave in Europe created intensely ripe, perfumed, juicy wines in Austria. I love this big, decadent Riesling, which still has the level of acidity that Austria is famous for."
Montagna at the Little Nell, Aspen, CO
2003 Château Routas Rouvière Rosé ($10)
Though Montagna's celebrity clientele leans toward pricey bottles and hard-to-find cult wines, Betts, a Master Sommelier and winemaker (Betts & Scholl), likes to relax at home with this relatively humble rosé from Provence. "If you can get over the idea of wine as a luxury and see it as an everyday drink, you realize how well a dry rosé like this one goes with just about everything you cook. I keep bottles of the Routas around all the timetechnically speaking, I'd describe it as yummy."
Cowboy Ciao, Scottsdale, AZ
2002 Garretson The Spáinneach Grenache ($28)
Kasperski, the ebullient proprietor of this Italian-Mexican-Southwestern restaurant, loves to kick back with this rich Central Coast Grenache. It's made using Italy's old ripasso technique, meaning that the wine is aged on the lees of the previous year's vintage for added depth: "It's got a remarkable dried-fruit character but also retains so much fresh fruit and explosiveness."
Sommelier Annie Turso
Asiate, New York City
2002 Robert Sinskey Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($34)
"I definitely reach for a Pinot Noir, and usually a domestic onethey're easier to get and less expensive. This one has a great Burgundy-like earthiness and isn't too fruity-sweet."