Thirsty Thursday, Naturally

“Change happens naturally, and it’s happening all the time,” says Amanda Fraga. “It’s a style that’s inherent to the wine program at Genuine, just like it is in the kitchen.”

Fraga, sommelier and beverage manager at The Genuine Hospitality Group, explains this way of working grounds the restaurant by shaking things up, especially with wines by the glass.  This serves an important purpose for the guest, facilitating trial. It’s a great way for people to try new things without making a big commitment.  They can comfortably step out of their comfort zone.  This dynamic environment not only keeps things fresh and exciting for our guests, but works in much the same way for our team in the restaurant, who is used to experiencing and then having to quickly learn the gamut and describe in approachable terms to diners.  From new grapes and producers, to places of origin and food pairings, it’s an exercise in training and translation on the fly.  Fraga is inspired by their initiative, out of the restaurant, too.

“When they go out to eat, most of our servers are naturally challenging themselves to try new things, interesting wines… Barolo… Nebbiolo,” she continues.  “The lifespan of most by the glass on our list is about 2-3 months, maybe less. Staff will adapt. They are used to changes and their wine knowledge speaks to that.”

So what brings about the change?  Fraga likes to make sure to include a variety of styles and price points.

“I never want to be out of touch with what our guests want to drink,” she says.
“Sometimes I taste a wine when I’m out and just have to have it so people can experience it.”

Other times, it’s more deliberate, out of necessity by virtue of type of wines she brings in.  Smaller producers who are doing interested things — making things naturally with no additives or artificial processes — tend to have more limited supply and will usually run out quicker than others and need to be replaced.   This has trained Fraga to basically be anticipating what the next move is. All the time.  Then, there are the rare occasions when she’ll get a lead.  A trusted friend in the business recommends a new importer to taste with and they bring something cool.

“This basically never happens, so when it does I’m tasting with them right away,” she explains. “Recently my mentor Daniel Toral told me about this small distributor from New York.  He was like, ‘You have to taste with this guy.'”

Seeing how the Chamlija held up against the spice in our octopus set up.

And taste she did, with Greg from City Beautiful, who had just been in the Canary Islands.  Bermejo, a rosado from Lanzarote, known for its volcanic soil and lunar landscape, really impressed her for its likeness to provencal rosé.  Those beloved calling cards — pale pink to orange color, nice rounded acid and hints of stone fruit, light to medium body — not the typical darker fruited expressions of Italian or Spanish origin.  Could this in turn effortlessly engender affinity amongst fans of the classic French style, where it all began, and offer a peek through new glasses?  Why, of course, the perfect segue at the table.

sommelier Dean Forst!

Listan negro is referred to the mission grape since the Spaniards brought it with them to the New World. You’ll hear it called pais in South America,” she says. “This wine is great because it’s familiar but different, so a natural introduction for rosé fans.  Or, if a couple had wanted to go with a bottle of red for the meal, perhaps they would like to share a glass with the oysters they ordered to start?  It’s a bonus.  Enjoy a few sips to accentuate the shellfish.  That’s the beauty of the glass.”

As for trying new things, tasting is baked into the job description and moments like being presented with a (vetted) Turkish wine are ones that Fraga trains for and relishes.  She tastes and tastes, and tastes again (the second sip is really where you can discern flavor profile, anyway)  The what-do-I-like, what-do-my-guests-like and where-can-we-meet-in-the-middle at various points on the sliding scale being the guiding paradigm at play.  She might like something for her own shelf but it doesn’t always mean it’s the right for the restaurant.  Chamlija made the cut.  The call was a simple one. Just don’t ask her to pronounce it!
“I’m going to put a Turkish wine on the list, it better be a Turkish grape!”
Try the Papaskarasi, chamlija “blanc de noirs” thrace, turkey 2015 (13/glass) and Listan Negro, los bermejos, lanzarote, canary islands, spain 2016 (15/glass) as of yesterday (Wine Wednesday!) at Michael’s Genuine and follow @quepasamanda and #mgfdwine on Instagram.  Open your eyes and palate to change.  It all starts with a second taste!

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