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About this Episode

In this episode of CorkRules, certified sommelier Grace Hood shares her expertise on how sommeliers create and organize a great wine list. Grace and Robert explore the European and Californian wines on the list in addition to those unique and little-known gems. Grace shares a brief overview of how to pair wines. 

Wines reviewed include:

  • 2019 Chateau Montelana
  • Gerad Boulay 2020 Sancerre
  • 2018 Antoria Tignanello
Transcript: Quality Meats

RT: Hello and Welcome to CorkRules! 

A podcast where we will review a wine list from your favorite restaurants. I’m your host Robert Tas along with Grace Hood, Wine Educator and Certified Sommelier. Hello Grace, it’s great to have you!

GH: Hi Robert! I am so stoked to be here! Love what you’re doing with CorkRules and excited to chat wine lists with you

RT Before we jump in, let’s talk about those wine lists. We created Corkrules to help demystify wine list’s because we know from experience, that sometimes when we get that list handed to us, well… it can be intimidating, and even a little daunting. Our aim is to help prepare you to navigate that list, find those hidden gems, or value wines or that special bottle that will take your dining experience over the top.

RT. So Grace before we jump into our review let’s talk about how somms go about creating those lists. I know you have worked created many wine lists in the past. How did you tackle this daunting task?

GH: Great question - there are a few things that a wine director or sommelier does when it comes to buying wine for their restaurant and creating a wine list.

1-What is the cuisine? And what wines will pair with it of course?

2-Who is your clientele? What do they like to drink? What are their demographics? What is their price point for wines?

3-How will you organize the list so it can best be understood?

I was eager to jump into the CorkRules project b/c as a sommelier I hear all the time “I'm not a wine expert” or “I only really know what I like” etc. The main goal of my career is to provide the average person with the tools and knowledge so they can make wine choices for themselves. They can learn about what they like and don’t like, and start making connections between regions and varietals and types of wine, so they can feel empowered when they go to a restaurant and look at lists like these.

RT: Grace, I love your approach to simplifying the wine experience. Let’s look at our list today which comes from Quality Meats Steakhouse in NYC. What are your first impressions Grace?

GH: Just from a first glance, I definitely think this is a pretty traditional type list you’d see at a steak house! These types of old school steak houses have been a staple of the wine world in America for a long time, in that they were one of the only types restaurants with wine restaurants probably up until the 1990s. America has only recently become a wine-drinking nation - for a long time, if we drank at all ( thank you Puritans lol) it was beer or moonshine! Wine was regarded as being something only the wealthy had the money and access to. A big part of that had to do with the fact that we didn’t produce our own wine, so importing it back in the day was a major undertaking that drove the prices up to the point where the everyday person couldn’t afford wine. But that all changed with the Paris tasting of 1976 when the now famous Chateau Montelena of Napa beat out every other wine to become the first American winery to win the then highest honor in the wine world! They have it on the list! 2019 Chateau Montelana!  From there, the American wine industry was born - and now almost 50 years later, every state in America has at least 1 vineyard, and we are the #1 wine drinking country in the world.

RT: Great history lessonNo matter how much we change as wine drinking community, there will always be staples and classic establishments that have their fabulous vintage appeal. B/c no matter how much esoteric orange wine we drink and gluten-free bread we eat, sometimes you just need a juicy steak and a big bold red wine to go with it :)

RT: You are spot on? And thanks for that history lesson. When it comes to the Quality Meats list, how would someone tackle their wine list?

GH: So when it comes to a wine list, the first thing I do is convene with my fellow diners - what are we all thinking of ordering? Do we want to get individual glasses or a bottle? Are we celebrating something? And what do we all have to do tomorrow hahah

RT: Hahaha

MV: A lot of people ask me “what is the right way to taste wine? If I start with red can I go back to white? Etc” and there def is a science to it, and very similar to how we think of courses at a meal. Your amuse bouche is usually very light and delicate, so you would want a light delicate wine to pair with it, like a sparkling wine like a  – NV Ruiniart or a light white like Gerrad Boulay 2020 Sancerre, so it does not overwhelm the ingredients or your palate. Then for an appetizer, you might go with something a little bit weighter - say you have a Salad or a soup - you’ll want to go with something that can stand up to the dressing or the salad, or the richness of the soup, like medium-bodied white like a 2019 Billaud Simon chablis or a rose like 2018 Anne Bridgette. And then of course when we get to the main course that will most likely haven’t a heavier meatier ingredient like poultry or meat, you’ll want a wine that can stand up to the fat and acid in that delicious course - that's why everyone knows that a big bold red wine like a Tuscan 2018 Antoria Tignelo or the 2017 Mascot by Harlan goes with steak! It's possibly the most notable wine pairing across the board.


RT: Totally! You can’t have chilled oysters with merlot - it would just be too much :) So when it comes to other classic steak house lists that you have seen, what is notable about Quality Meats list?


GH: So from the first glance, they’ve definitely have pretty classic steak house mix of Europe and California. Over on the European side, they have a hearty selection of what we call “old world” wines which simply means European wines, with an emphasis on Italy, France and a little bit of Spain, which you will traditionally find in steak house lists b/c they produce some big bold classic varietals - your cabs, your super tuscans, your pinots, your merlots, your Bordeaux’s, your Riojas etc. They also have a big collection of California, which again produce your pack a punch red wines  that can stand up to the thick juicy cuts of meat at steak houses. However, where they really start to break it down is in their “Prime Cuts” and “Quality Collection” - Their allocations list, which essentially just means wines that had a very small production, and were purchased usually a head of time by either distributors or private collectors or restaurant groups that have a deal with that winery. So they’re really special and unique b/c there are not many of those wines available! Hence why they also have a higher price point.

RT: Ooh, Terrific. Grace, speaking of price, sometimes people have a budget in mind..  any great value wines you’d point us to? 

GH: Absolutely - b/c we’re at a steak house we will most likely be ordering reds, so ones that stick out to me immediately are Bergström “Cumberland Reserve” 2018 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from  Willamette Valley is one of my favorite wine-producing regions in the world, with its nickname being “The burgundy of America” b/c it produces amazing lush rich velvety gorgeous pinot noirs at 1/3 the price of Burgundy France. Bergstrom is one the most highly regarded and sought-after grapes in the region, and a personal favorite of mine as well.

Further down in the Spain region, we have Ysios 2015 Rioja Reserva La Rioja at $120. I love Spanish wines for a variety of reasons, but one amazing and unique thing about Spanish wines is that the winemakers actually hold off on releasing their vintages until they believe they’re ready to drink. So this 2015, even though it was harvested, made into wine and barreled down into 2015, it probably wasn’t put into bottle till 2016, and then probably wasn’t released to the public till last year! B/c Spanish winemakers understand that their bold tannic tempreaNULLlos develop into more lush juicy delicious palatable wines over time. A big reason why some people don’t enjoy red wines is b/c they find them too hot or dry or acidic or tannic. And that probably is due to the fact that they’re drinking them very young. People ask me all the time “what is the point of aging” a wine and I tell them that wine is a living thing until you pull the cork. B/c red wine has tannins and sugar within their bottle, there’s a chemical process still happening even when the wine comes out of a barrel and into a bottle. It matures and develops into something more lush and chill, making it less tannic and richer over time. Vintage/older wines are delicious, but sometimes also come with a higher price point - so that is why Spanish reds are so amazing! You can experience older delicious red wines at an affordable prince point :)

RT: Great call out on those Spanish wines. Now Grace, what if I have a big client dinner or special occasion where I want to take it up a notch?

GH: Totally! I get asked a lot “If you had all the money in the world, what wine would you buy” and again - older reds! They are actually worth the money and are such a unique experience of a grape and a place and a winemaker. One wine that stood out to me immediately was the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2012 Burgundy. DRC as it is known in the wine world is arguably the most prestigious and expensive wine in the world! It comes from one of the most well renowned and exclusive wineries in France and has a cult following. It would be a big flex as the kids say!

  RT: No kidding. Anything else you’d consider for that special occasion?

GH: 2015/11 – Pontet Canet

Great Thank you so much for all your great suggestions and helping us navigate Quality Meats.

To our audience, thank you all for joining us here on Corkrules.  If you would like us to review one of your favorite restaurants, please send us email to: Info@corkrules.Com or visit our web website where we have a request form available and we will do our best to get it in the queue as quick as possible.

We are looking forward to being with you on another CorkRules episode soon. In the meantime, please check out our website for other episodes of your favorite restaurant wine lists. Follow us on social media @corkrules and @wineswithgrace

And finally, drink what you love and please make sure you drink responsibly.


Thank you.







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