Sommelier Caleb Ganzer of La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is launching the wine bar's Sommakase program, a casual equivalent of a free-form wine pairing at a tasting menu-driven restaurant.
La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels & Caleb Ganzer launch their Sommakase program
Credit: © Patrick Fahrner

BESPOKE assortment
WINES tailored to fit your mood
speak with SOMMELIER

So reads the brief description – in haiku form – of the new Sommakase option on the wine list at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, the New York outpost of the Parisian bar. The brainchild of head sommelier Caleb Ganzer, it’s a play off of the ‘chef’s choice’ Japanese sushi phenomenon, wherein for $30, $60, or $90, guests get to pick a price and leave their drinking journey in the capable hands of the staff. “It’s the equivalent of saying, 'bring me a bottle you’re excited about under $100,' but instead of one bottle, you might get three to five tastes of some dope wines you might not know about or might not think to order,” says Ganzer. Each Sommakase experienceis individualized based on the guest's preferences, so while one personmight get a flight of glasses to pair with specific selected food items, another might get a half bottle from an obscure region followed by a taste of something at the Premier Cru level, made possible by the handy invention that is the Coravin.

Sommakase is not unlike the free-form wine pairings one might find in certain tasting menu-driven restaurants, providing the same sort of interaction with a sommelier, but in a totally informal setting. “It’s the dream for our team,” says Ganzer, “since they get to share wines they find particularly inspiring.” By the same token, the guests get to break out of their old wine habits and try new things. Ganzer likes to bookend the experience, starting folks off with Champagne and ending the evening with an under-the-radar digestivo like Barolo Chinato. “We get to pepper in those fun things the same way you might get special smoked eel at the end of an omakase. Plus, it takes the pesky beating-around-the-bush price-point conversation out of the equation by putting a clean set of figures on paper to give the somm some guidelines,” he adds.

Ganzer’s favorite Sommakase flight so far? “We had a guy come in who chose the $90 option but wanted just three tastes of some really great wines. Our taste pour is a half-glass, so theoretically, that’s three wines that would each run $60 a glass. We were able to pull a 2002 Chave Hermitage Blanc, a 2011 Prieuré-Roch Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru ‘Clos des Argilières’, and a Ganevat Macvin to finish. So, two very classic and very hard-to-find French wines and then a unique, quirky pour from a new-iconic natural producer. He loved it, had an amazing time, and we got to try some awesome – and educational – wines in the process.”