Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef Esteban Brunello

May 2013

Katherine Sacks: How did you get interested in wine?
Esteban Brunello: A long time a go in a restaurant that I used to be a food runner at, I found out there was a wine with my last name. I wanted to taste it, because I loved the idea, and I got more and more into wine. I like French wines but my specialty is Italian wines. I got more involved with wine and then decided to study it.

KS: What wine certifications do you have?
EB: I’ve taken the first level of guild certifications, but I’m not a huge fan of the Court of Masters. It’s not updated, now a days in restaurants everything is non-smoking, but they still ask questions about cigars. The program needs to be updated. But I have lots of friends that are master sommeliers and they push me to do it.

KS: What are your go-to wine resources?
EB: I like to go straight to the wine makers websites, I consider them to be the most accurate. Sommeliers add so much wording that people want to hear but I appreciate really the words winemakers say, the way they talk about their wines. I encourage all servers and bartenders to attend winemaker dinners to learn from the winemakers. Their philosophy, that’s how you understand the winemakers style and their ability.

KS: What is your approach to wine pairing?
EB: Of course you can follow the table, acid with acid, weight with weight, but the reality is, coming from Argentina and having a European background, sometimes I don't want to interfere with the table. If their focus is on a wine, I might serve it because I just want the table to have a good time. Of course, I follow the regular patterns of pairing wine with food, tasting wine with food; it’s something I like to do a lot, tasting by the glass.

KS: What wines do you collect at home?
EB: Right now at home I have around 430 bottles, that goes from Argentine wine to mostly Italian. I have to say 75 percent Italian, 10 percent French, and the rest is divided, some Croatian, and I love Slovenian wines. I was born in 1976, and have a Brunello 1976 for my 36th birthday.