Sommelier Jason Hisaw: How an Insider Navigates a Wine List
(With apologies to Sinatra…)
Got my tweeds pressed, got on my best vest, all I need now is … a really good bottle of wine.
So you arrive at your new favorite restaurant, get seated at a prime-time table, and the waiter hands you the wine list. Hmmm. It’s broken up into chapters, with a table of contents and an index. You’re already overwhelmed. But isn’t wine supposed to be fun?
I’m going to share the insider’s secret to navigating a wine list. Want to know how to find those little gems on the list that most people overlook?
Ask for help.
I’m an insider, a wine professional. Even I get stuck sometimes when scanning through a list, so I ask for help. If it’s a nice restaurant, I ask for a sommelier. If there’s not a sommelier or if it’s a more casual place, I ask for help from the manager or even a knowledgeable waiter.
More often than not, the restaurant has a few wines from little known regions that I haven’t even heard of yet, and those wines are often great surprises. A good wine professional will happily tell you about them. The best part is that those gems are usually value-priced and cost nowhere near triple digits.
Here’s another secret: Consider ordering a wine from Spain, Chile, or Argentina, which are easy to find because they are extremely popular these days. Look for the 2007 Tres Picos from the Campo de Borja region of Spain, or the 2008 Luca Malbec from the Medoza region of Argentina; both are quality wines with small price tags.
Hisaw is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers as an Advanced Level Sommelier. He is a member of the wine team at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas and writes for EscapeHatchDallas.com.