Interview with Sommelier Eduardo Porto Carreiro of Grace Los Angeles, CA
Antoinette Bruno: How did you develop an interest in wine?
Eduardo Porto Carreiro: I have been sipping on wine since I was a wee lad. It was part of my family culture. Growing up outside of the US [wine] really is part of the meal; it’s just the beverage you enjoy with food. I was definitely interested in wine through my teenage years. I grew up between Brazil and Vienna. My dad worked with the UN in Austria. My mom's dad was very involved in [the government of] Uruguay. I ended up in Maryland in 1988. I was in Brazil and Vienna for the first seven years.
I went to school in upstate New York at Cornell and took a very popular wine class. It was a fun realization; as I studied and read Wine for Dummies I realized I knew a lot of the stuff already. When I came out here [to California] my first job was in a wine shop. Then I kind of rolled that into a restaurant gig. Then somehow Amy and Neal [Fraser] hired me to be a food runner here [at Grace]. I still worked at the wine shop while running food here. I did the server thing and then became assistant wine director. I was Matt Straus’ assistant for a year and when he left I got to take over.
AB: What is your philosophy on wine and food?
EC: I think it mind sound trite but the philosophy I have is really find the soul, the truth, and the integrity in the wine. When [I find a wine] that actually makes me pause and makes me think “this is great,” that’s when I feel the honesty and the authenticity of the wine. Authenticity and realness—that’s what turns my head.
In terms of pairing and food, I like to play and have fun. I try the textbook pairing and then see if things can be found from different corners of the earth that might fit into a ‘textbook pairing.’ I'm big on texture, and acid in wine is paramount. Even if it’s underlying and doesn’t show its face, a wine has to have acid to be wine friendly. I'm always looking for that. Everyone talks about what’s great about art, music, food, wine—it can all be distilled to truth.
AB: Do you lean more towards Old World or New World wines?
EC: I am a Francophile at heart. I definitely have the Old World sensibilities in the forefront of my taste, but the stuff that excites me the most is the New World. It’s a new frontier with new boundaries. I spent a week in Chile last year in August and I was fascinated by what they're doing—they’ve made phenomenal strides. It’s the Old World, but with people using technology and the latest techniques to draw from these amazingly old vines. [They’re] trying to produce and present really honest wine without being too crazy or flashy or made up. I think it’s a healthy dose of both [Old and New World].
AB: You paired a 2006 Clos du Mont-Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape with Sauteed Saddle of Scottish Hare with Black Rice, Poached Pears, and Sesame. Why did you choose that wine?
EC: Southern Rhone Chateauneuf du Pape for me is one of the most authentic and true [wines]. I remember the very first time I ever smelled Chateauneuf du Pape and got that instant transport to Southern France even though I hadn’t been there. When I finally went [to Southern France] it was so precise, especially when you're dealing with a producer that is very traditional, like the Sabon family. You go into the [Sabon family] cave and it’s gnarly and dirty and thick with cobwebs and crustiness and you think “how is good wine coming out of this?” It's just like magic. For me from nose to end it works. That being said, you can't really eat it with foods across the board. The chef sautéed some Scottish hare and I could eat that with the wine, chat, and be happy. It's really fun because they both complement each other. What I look for in wine pairings is synergy.
AB: Tell me about a perfect wine and food match that you have discovered.
EC: Honestly it cannot be more textbook but it brought tears to my eyes—sautéed foie with a 1995 Sauternes d y'Quem. It was glorious, one of the most amazing things. Another time Neal [Fraser]’s sous chef had all of these ridiculous fresh morels and he topped them with crusty bread and melted cheese; I just poured red Burgundy and that was heaven as well. But I think the most visceral reaction I've had was that Sauternes and foie. It was the whole experience.
AB: What are your ultimate career goals? Where will we find you in 5 to 10 years?
WB: I'm having so much fun buying wine because I’m always learning so much and I really dig hosting the party that is people coming in every night. I definitely want to keep somm’ing in my life. I like the model a few sommeliers have taken lately. I started a wine label a few years back and would like to be more involved with it. I was at Boulevard in San Francisco and Robert [Perkins] and his business partner switch time on the floor somm’ing and time in the vineyard making wine. It would be really fun splitting your time between the floor and the vineyard.