New York City's Wine Boom

By Caroline Hatchett with D. J. Costantino

By

Caroline Hatchett with D. J. Costantino
Short Rib, Gremolata, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, and Chestnut paired with 2015 Morgon at Freek's Mill
Short Rib, Gremolata, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, and Chestnut paired with 2015 Morgon at Freek's Mill

If you dine out at a chef-driven restaurant in New York City—whether it’s in Bed-Stuy, on the Bowery, or in Midtown—you should expect to drink from a wine list with character and value. That hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, it was a Burgundy or bust world out there, where great wines lived almost exclusively in the rarefied, cloistered realm of fine dining. As white tablecloths disappeared and dining went democratic, so followed wine—and to a growing extent, the sommelier profession.

“The old school definition of a sommelier is someone who has been drinking 30 or 40 years,” says John Ragan, who came to New York 11 years ago to lead the wine team at Eleven Madison Park and is now beverage director of Union Square Hospitality Group. “In just 10 years, with the amount of information that has been unlocked, the culture is so much more open to sharing information. The process [to becoming a sommelier] is light speed to what it was a decade ago.” 

Now you can see what Jancis Robinson is drinking on Instagram and follow Fred Dexheimer’s exploits on Facebook. There’s hard-earned knowledge and passion on full display from every corner of the industry. Combine that kind access to information with the proliferation of exceptional wine-centric restaurants and the somm-as-new-cultural-rock-star phenomenon, and you have a city gleefully overflowing with memorable wine experiences—not to mention flush with talented wine professionals.

It’s a perfect storm for good drinking, especially in New York City, home to Charlie Bird, Estella, Wildair, and Rebelle (the latter with its pin-less, t-shirt wearing Somm-Owner Patrick Cappiello) and wine bars like Ten Bells, Racine’s, and Laura Maniec’s Corkbuzz. Pascaline is an industry mononym inextricable from natural wines. Ciders, craft beers, and Sherry have staged sit-ins on menus. Knowledge of said beverages is cultural currency, and a growing number of diners wants to roll with a bottle of red from Jura or try a new funky, oxidized Chardonnay from upstate New York (shout out to Chris Bates). And thanks to a growing number of young professionals (and the restaurants supporting their salaries), dining rooms come standard with a captain or sommelier who have curated a special wine list and are eager to share a special, often affordable, bottle. 

We’ve mapped the careers of some of the city’s most exciting young sommeliers. They all worked the floor as the current wine renaissance was budding. Before that (and before nerding out on Slovenian grape varietals and pairing Sauternes with duck curry cones), they were scrubbing juice tanks in Napa and studying literature at Bard. Now, they’re putting their stamp on the city. Bar Boulud now has a little Bushwick edge from Amanda Smeltz. Marea’s Mariarosa Tartaglione is one of the most intuitive somms in the city. Her Italian blood, it seems, is thick with wine. Rising Stars winners Daniel Beedle and Andrea Morris are pulling off pairing miracles with Indian and vegetarian cuisine, respectively. DBGB Somm Ian Smedley is a walking encyclopedia, primed to become an industry thought leader, and Dan Pucci has embraced cider unlike any of his peers. 

It’s a deep wine bench of young, enthusiastic somms pouring amidst a great New York City wine boom.

Daniel Beedle | Fayetteville, AK
2004: Scraped tanks at LaVelle Vineyards
2011: Met Morgan Harris while working at Tangled Vine.
2012 to 2015: Gained experience at Boulud Sud, Betony, The NoMad, and Juni
2015: opening beverage director at Indian Accent.

Definitive Beverage Pairing: 
'06 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes from Bordeaux with Duck Curry Cone

Andrea Morris | Oakland
2008: Externed at Picholine as a CIA student. Loved fine dining but not the kitchen
2010: Traveled to vineyards in Europe and California during harvest on scholarship; met Kevin Zraly.
2011: Worked at Eleven Madison Park as a server under John Regan, before getting her first somm job at Oceana in 2012.
2012: Began working at Jean Georges with Eric Hastings. Opened Nix as wine director in 2015

Definitive Beverage Pairing: 
'14 Domaine Michelot White Burgundy with Cabbage, Apple, Potato, and White Truffles

Mariarosa Tartaglione | Monteroduni, Molise, Italy
2003: From a big Italian family where Sunday lunch is sacred, at 15, Tartaglione's father had her choose and serve the wines for this important family ritual.
2008: Began work in restaurants to pay for her studies 
2011 to 2013: Sommelier at Antica Osteria Marconi in Potenza, Italy.
2013: Moved to U.S.A.; through work at the American Sommelier Association translated her wine knowledge from Italian to English.
2014 Continued working for ASA
2015: Became wine director at Rotisserie Georgette before moving to Marea in 2016

Definitive Beverage Pairing: 
'13 Joaquin Fianno di Avelino from Campagnia with Smoked Bluefish, Soffrito, and Taralli Crackers

Dan Pucci | Delhi, NY
2007: Stocked shelves at a wine store after school
2010: Niccolo Salvadori gave him a chance at Eataly
2014: Caught the cider bug working nights at Box Kite.
2015: Took his cider knowledge to Wassail, where he built NYC's premiere cider list. Now consulting for restaurants across New York State.

Definitive Beverage Pairing: 
'15 Eve’s Cidery Autumn's Gold Cider with Smoked Duck, Yam, Treviso, and Pomegranate

Ian Smedley | Lewiston, ME
2012: Worked for Tousey Winery while studying literature at Bard College
2013: Started as a busboy at Boulud Sud, where he met Mike Madrigale.
2015: Became a somm at Boulud Sud & Bar Boulud. 
2016: Worked full time at Flatiron Wines, before returning to the floor at DBGB as head somm.

Definitive Beverage Pairing: 
'12 La Croix de Carbonnieux Red Bordeaux Blend with The Frenchie Burger

Amanda Smeltz | Harrisburg, PA
2009: Helped opened The Breslin while getting an MFA in poetry at The New School
2012: Crossed over to Bushwick, ran wine program at Roberta's and Blanca
2012 to 2015: Expands wine program at Roberta's, bringing in $1 million dollars annually
2016: Took over Mike Madrigale's post at Boulud Sud & Bar Boulud.

Definitive Beverage Pairing: 
'09 Keuka Lake Finger Lakes Riesling with Dourade, Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Socca



 

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