Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fanfare for the (un)Common Somm(elier)

Brian Huynh of Gemma in Dallas - photo by Brad Murano
Over the past week, once again in Texas, in restaurants, a wine list was thrust into my hands. “You choose, find us some wine,” my table guests requested. Oh boy, here we go again. The young sommelier at Gemma in Dallas, Brian Huynh, came over to the table to say hi. I imagined him coming over and first upbraiding me for voicing my opinions on this blog, but that isn’t what happened. Instead he smiled and asked if there was anything he could do to help us enjoy our evening. Indeed, there would be questions, but I asked him to fetch us a bottle of Smith Story Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Rheingau in Germany, while we sorted through the menu and made our selections.

When everyone at the table had decided, Brian came back over. There were five of us, each with something a little different. One at our table had steak tartare, one had sweetbreads, two had pappardelle with rabbit sauce and one had barramundi. What wine would go well with all of these? Brian asked me what I liked. I told him I had a penchant for white wines from Europe. I liked cold, steely, minerally wines. He suggested a white burgundy, but also asked me if he could suggest something a little outside of the box. The way he did it was so subtle. It was a classic example of one in the service industry offering some well needed hospitality advice. “I have this red wine, Nebbiolo, from Santa Ynez, Clendenen Family, a 2010. I think you might like it.” We’d already resolved that I indeed liked Nebbiolo. But here was a red wine, and New World at that. “Let’s give it a shot,” I said. And so he went and fetched the bottle.

2010 Clendenen Family Vineyards 'Bricco Buon Natale' Nebbiolo
Perfect temperature, cellar temperature. Nice little bit of age on it, 6 years. Not an overwhelming New World facsimile of Italian Nebbiolo. No, this wine had its own unique personality, but while it wasn’t trying to be something it could never be, it was something all unto itself. And that was a well-balanced, perfectly enjoyable red wine.

What struck me was how well the sommelier inserted the wine into our evening. He wasn’t heavy handed, didn’t have any ego invested in the decision. He merely wanted to share with us something he thought we’d like. And not something I was thinking about. It was a wonderful experience which gave me hope for the role and the future of the sommelier trade. Especially when the beverage service was done with tact and in the spirit of professionalism that is taught by the Court of Master Sommeliers. And Brian can play a pretty mean violin, as well!

Gemma is a wonderful restaurant in Dallas started by Allison Yoder and her husband Stephen Rogers – they came from Press in Napa Valley – Great food and an exemplary wine list.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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