Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef Bobby Conroy

May 2013

Katherine Sacks: What got you interested in wine?
Bobby Conroy: I've been in restaurants for a long time now, started that back in 2000, and I've always loved it. I sort of recognized that it could be something I could do long term. After working with someone at Smith & Wollensky who took Court of Master Sommelier test, I realized I could make a somewhat respectable career in wine and drink all the wine I want.

KS: What makes a good pairing?
BC: You have to address the core component of whatever the dish is, if that is inherent sweetness, saltiness, base protein, address the foundation of the dish. Chefs and their teams, work so hard from the thought process, the reduction, the plating, that by the time it's actually on the dining room floor, 9 times out of 10  it is perfectly seasoned, perfectly plated and, it would be wrong to think wine will act as an extra layer of seasoning. In a lot of ways that would dishonor the dish, the effort the kitchen puts forth.

KS: What wines are you currently excited about?
BC: I think there is really a shift happening in the production of California Pinot Noir. On the north coast there are cooler climates, and a shift away from heavy toasted, high oak to more elegant, food-friendly wines. A lot of producers out there have learned over time they want to drink wine with food and they are learning how to do that.

KS: What wine certifications do you have?
BC: So I'm an Advanced Sommelier with Court of Sommeliers. I hope to sit with Court of Master Sommeliers for the first time in 2013. I have a collection of about 4,000 flashcards and growing. There’s also tasting groups. I’m lucky to live in a hot bed of Master Sommeliers here. Working with Yoon [Ha], who just passed his Master Sommelier exam is an invaluable resource to my success.

KS: What is your fondest wine memory?
BC: There’s a lot of really great ones. Probably the one that comes to mind most recently, I was at my friends place in Languedoc, drinking 1985 Banyul and eating cheese. To be hanging out as his home, drinking a wine from his birth home, eating cheese, and sitting around the fireplace, that was great.

KS: What wine would you take to drink on a deserted island?
BC: I think I would drink 2007 Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Sainte Catherine Reisling Grand Cru. It’s outstanding, has fresh richness of fruit, and dances with acidity. It does everything you need it to do.

KS: What figure in history would you like to share a glass of wine with?
BC: I think I would have a drink with Martin Luther King because the man has class and grace and style. So whatever we would be drinking, if he chose it, I know it would be excellent, and if I chose it I know he would hold me to the highest standards. The conversations he would hold me to about food, wine, family, social issues, would be so compelling. I have a sneaking suspicion it would be much more than food or wine.

KS: Where will we find you in 5 years?
BC: Hopefully by that point I will have passed my Master Sommelier diploma. I will be close to, if not already opening my own restaurant. The city I tend to think it would be is back in D.C., but I also think the Bay Area could be quite realistic. It would have to be place I love, that could support fine dining.