My personal wine journey began comparatively late because I was raised in Utrecht, Netherlands in a home where my parents believed that I should experience spirits only when I became legally of an age. In the Netherlands, one can publicly drink at 18 but I was 22. I went on a business trip to Paris to meet a man who was crucial to signing off on a project I wanted badly to do. Instead of meeting in his office, this man, Frederic (who later became my best friend), drove me to a restaurant in Angers just south of Paris. There we shared a very long dinner that included several wines. From my first glass, I knew I was destined for a journey that would take me all over the world in search of new wines to taste, beautiful vineyards to see and companionable wine lovers to share experiences with.
Wine opens up a world of travel, people and memorable good times. Sometimes, I recall a dinner or sitting in a cafe with friends and even if I cannot remember the exact name of the wine we drank, I can always remember the faces of the friends and what we talked about. Wine is meant to be enjoyed in a context of relaxation and camaraderie.
When I moved to Sarasota, Florida in 2011, after vacationing here for several years with my wife and three children, I gave up my career in IT and transitioned into the hospitality business. That move greatly expanded the scope of my wine journey because now I am purchasing wines for two restaurants and a night club as well as my own cellar at home.
I’ve learned that the best expert on each bottle is the person drinking it. Drink what you love. Devise your own food and wine pairings, but learn all you can about wine because the subject is endlessly fascinating. Experimenting with wine can be one of the most enjoyable hobbies you can have. Toward that end, I’m increasing the number of wines by-the-glass in my restaurants to encourage guests to try something new and different.
Lately, I’m loving three wines I want to share. M. Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette has a nice history. The ancient vineyard that produces this wine was planted by a 13th century Crusader home of the wars who was given a hillside for his service by the Queen of Spain. He became a hermit and grew grapes. This dry white, which tastes of peaches, honeysuckle, white currant and even mango, is what I call flexible. It tastes light or hearty depending on the food you serve it with. This wine lets food lead the way. I enjoy it with fish, pasta, cheese, linguine and clam sauce. It’s about $100 a bottle in my restaurant, Cafe´ Americano.
Another favorite is the M. Chapoutier Hermitage Rouge Monier de la Sizeranne, which is also flexible. This medium-body red is wonderful with a club sandwich, a salad, pasta and most kinds of seafood. It tastes of berries and spices and never disappoints me. A fair restaurant price for this wine is about $100 and I stock it. A reliable Springtime table wine for me is Jankara Vermentino de Gallura, a white wine I drink almost everyday with lunch. Made with just the vermentino grape, this Sardinian wine recedes or advances depending upon what you pair it with. I enjoy this wine with bottarga, a hamburger, pasta, frittata, even a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. In a restaurant, it should retail for about $60 and you can often find it by the glass for about $9. Keep tasting!