Second of two parts
In a dimly lit alcove aside the bar at Teller’s Chophouse in Islip, on a Friday evening not too long ago, five bottles of wine and a filled decanter stood on a table along with a tray of bulbous wine stems awaiting Paulo Villela. Platters of hors d’oevres sit atop a nearby table.
Villela, beverage director at Tellers and other restaurants in the Bohlsen Restaurant Group portfolio, was preparing for an educational tasting for a few select patrons, who’ve paid $50 each for the privilege of tasting with the master, and for members of Tellers’ staff.
Tellers’ bespectacled wine guru, who’s been pouring wine professionally in New York City and Long Island for nearly a quarter of a century, believes in keeping the serving staff of the Bohlsen restaurants up on the newest wines and regularly conducts sessions in each of the restaurants.
On this particular evening, Villela has chosen a handful of wines he says are perfect for autumnal dinners. Many are Rhone varietals. “Rhone varietals are best in the fall. They’re big, but they work with a lot of different foods,” he explained, noting that they suit the seasonal items on Tellers’ menu.
Moreover, these wines were from small artisanal producers unfamiliar to many imbibers and made from grapes varieties that Tellers’ regulars, generally fans of big California cabernets, might not recognize. Offering small production wines, Villela says, let’s Tellers standout from its competitors. “They’re not overexposed. They’re only available in a few boutiquey retail stores,” he added, noting that it doesn’t look good if Tellers is selling a wine at triple what a patron might pay in a discount wine shop.
The first offering of Villela’s wine practicum was Flux 2009 a Grenache dominated Napa Valley red blend from Mark Herald Wines. Winemaker Mark Herald, who has PhD in ecology with a focus on fish biology, made the blend with 68 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah, 12 percent carignan, and 5 percent petite sirah. A big, alcoholic wine with notes of black and red berries and the silkiest of tannins, Tellers sells it for $60 a bottle.
Up next was a wine few of Teller’s regulars likely would ever order on their own: Robert Foley Vineyards Charbono 2008. Charbono, known as bonarda in Argentina, is a red grape that originated in Savoie region of France and one that Villela explains has been used for years for blending in California. Foley is one of California’s most-respected winemakers and a partner in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery. A big luscious wine, the charbono offers notes of berries, earth and graphite and, yes, high alcohol. It’s $80 on Tellers’ list.
Villela’s third selection was Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe 2009, a Washington state syrah produced by Greg Harrington, a master sommelier who formerly worked at New York City-based BR Guest restaurants. It’s a chewy wine with soft tannins, good acidity and an lengthy finish and, surprisingly, just 13 percent alcohol. “This is definitely a wine made for food,” Villela tells his guests. The wine is $90 on Tellers’ list.
Wine No. 4 was a Rhone-style blend, McPrice Myers Beautiful Earth 2009, from California’s Central Coast Paso Robles appellation. It’s 72 percent syrah blended with grenache and mourvedre. An inky, powerful, jammy fruit bomb with 15.8 percent alcohol, notes of black berries with tarry notes. So thick, it coats the tongue and it has a finish that seems to go on forever. $90 for a bottle at Tellers.
We followed with C.S. Cellars Old Vines Petite Syrah 2006, a Napa Valley wine that Villela described as a small production (3,000 cases a year) artisanal producer owned by veteran winemaker Chris Sweetanos, formerly of Twenty Rows. The nose is herbal, the body big and palate coating ,with notes of roasted prunes and figs. $60 at Tellers.
Our final selection, also a petite syrah, was the Scholium Project “Babylon” Tenbrink Vineyard 2005, a North Coast California wine from the iconoclastic, oft controversial winemaker Abe Schoener, also a co-owner at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery. This wine had been decanted two hours earlier. Big (17.1 percent alcohol) and chewy, it offers a nose of earth and graphite and big cherry fruits on the palate. Villela calls this “a very serious wine.” It goes for $160 a bottle at the restaurant.
On the first Friday of every month Villela shares with patrons six wines that best illustrate a theme. His December tasting, for example, will feature prestige Champagnes. Space is limited and reservations are on a first come, first serve basis. The cost is $50 per person. To reserve call (631) 277-7070.