A Cincinnati native, Ian Becker moved to California in 2001. He worked as a sports writer for the Napa Valley Register before transitioning into the wine trade. Having joined the Arlequin Wine Merchant team in 2005, Becker now directs the wine programs at Absinthe and Arlequin Wine Merchant. He’s also a co-founder of San Francisco Natural Wine Week.
How does being right near the ballet and opera and symphony affect your wine program?
We’re so busy with performance crowds that by-the-glass wines dominate what we do. So we’ve learned to look for wines that have broad appeal and that we can stand behind. We’ll have tables ordering seven glasses of the same wine rather than buying a bottle and we’re fine with that. Many pre-show people don’t want . . . Continue reading →
Jeff Berlin has been À Côté‘s wine director ever since the Oakland restaurant opened 12 years ago, starting with a global selection of wines. Today, the list is focused entirely on traditionally made European wines—many of which would be considered esoteric even by the cognoscenti. “I felt people were interested in those wines, but whenever there was something more familiar in the list, they would habitually order it,” he explains. “So we removed the familiarity from the list to force people to try something they’ve never heard of before.” He talked to Luke Sykora about some of his most exciting finds this year.
What are some of your most interesting new discoveries?
People continue to be really interested in the wines of Hungary. Toward the end of the year we . . . Continue reading →
Josiah Baldivino, a W&S Best New Sommelier in 2011, manages the list at Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District. Luke Sykora spoke with him after a recent W&S panel tasting.
What’s been the hottest category this year for you?
It’s always pinot noir—always New World pinot noir. A close second would be California cabernet. A lot of this has to do with the Hometown Heroes features I’ve been doing. I featured producers like Littorai, Failla, Lioco, Eric Kent, and most of them either do cabernet, syrah or pinot. There’s a whole story about why I like them and why they’re so great, and then a list of wines they sell to me out of their personal cellar.. . . Continue reading →
Chris Baggetta ran the wine program at Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan before moving to San Francisco a year ago, where she serves as wine director for Quince and its sister restaurant Cotogna. Quince’s program offers 800 selections with strengths in Burgundy, Champagne and northern Italy. Cotogna’s small list, on the other hand, is pan-Italian and value-centered: Except for its reserve selections, all the wines are $40 a bottle or $10 a glass.
The lists you manage at Quince and Cotogna are very different. Has it been difficult to get used to simultaneously working with those two very distinct programs?
For me, it is all one wine cellar, and all of it comes from the same place. One thing that’s fun for me is that when I’m on the floor, . . . Continue reading →
Vinny Eng started as a runner at Bar Tartine, becoming friends with former beverage director Alex Fox. Fox mentored him so well that Chad Robertson, Bar Tartine’s owner, promoted Eng when Fox moved on. He’s been co-curating the beverage program with Kim Watson-Jew (both pictured below) since December 2011, chasing down wines that have what he refers to as heritage or lineage. That’s led to a list rich in curiosities.
How did you first get excited about wine?
It dawned on me when I was sitting with Oliver McCrum at a tasting—I was a few months into my tenure here. We started talking about the beauty and ageability of fiano, and had this big conversation about how vivid a grape fiano can be and how it can evolve over . . . Continue reading →