A good sommelier chooses wine not just to pair with what the chef is preparing in the kitchen, but also to provide something for everyone regardless of taste and price range. Whether to ensure that every diner can find a “good bottle” at a price they are comfortable with, as Stephen Cavagnaro of Cavey’s in Manchester puts it, or to offer something for the “adventurous” as Marwan Idris of Hartford’s The Restaurant on 20 prides himself, choosing what labels to store in the cellar and put on the list requires a true love and deep knowledge of the grape in its most elegant form: a bottle of wine.
20 West Lane
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Sarah Bouissou is a noted and award-winning sommelier, chef and caterer. Her Sarah’s Wine Bar in husband Bernard’s restaurant on Route 35 in Ridgefield is famous for its wine tastings and for being a more casual dining spot than the main establishment. Sarah not only chooses the wine, but she also runs the front of the house for the main restaurant. This means overseeing a staff that includes their four daughters. While both sides of the house serve wonderful meals, the couple’s pride is the tasting menu: seven courses for $90. For an additional $60, there are wine pairings for Bernard’s seven dishes, each chosen by his sommelier and spouse, Sarah.
100 Lansdale Ave.
Milford, CT 06460
When a restaurant names itself “Bin” (the 100 is for its street address), diners should expect to be offered a wide and adventurous selection of labels, varietals and vintages to complement their meal. At Bin 100, there are over 130 wines to choose from with prices varying from a very affordable $25 Gascon sauvignon blanc to a $290 Napa cabernet. Matching wine to a menu that is a fusion of Asian and Iberian cuisine is not easy, but with selections from Argentina to Oregon, Paolo Iannaccone has met this challenge admirably. As sommelier, he also is not afraid to offer diners a bold choice, such as a nice Pinot Noir for the Zupppa di Pesce. A red wine with a fish dish? In this case, yes, says Iannaccone. The pinot very much complements the pink sauce. For other seafood selections, however, Iannaccone admits he usually recommends either one of the Spanish whites as they are cool and “crispy” or a German Riesling which he praises for its “elegance.”
45 E. Center St.
Manchester, CT 06040
Taking his family’s now 75-year-old Italian restaurant and adding a second, French dining room downstairs was a risky yet brilliant concept by Stephen Cavagnaro. Doing so in Manchester, which the owner admits is hardly a “culinary mecca,” may seem even riskier, but a restaurant as good as Cavey’s will always draw a regular and devoted crowd. As passionate about wine as he is about food, Cavagnaro has been working with sommelier Andre Ghillia for over 30 years to build up an impressive wine cellar. The collection stands at over 15,000 bottles with more than 11,000 selections. There is a 30-page wine list for the connoisseur but Ghillia and Cavagnaro pride themselves on the four-page list of more affordable wines ($28-$60 a bottle) that is presented to every table. The philosophy behind that selection, as Cavagnaro explains, is that there is “no reason not to have a good bottle at whatever price you are comfortable with.”
99 Orange St.
New Haven, CT 06510
“Wine Down Wednesday” may sound like a marketing gimmick, but with such a nice selection as William Christian has assembled for his Asian-inspired steakhouse in New Haven, that silly slogan becomes a midweek anthem. Christian is not a sommelier but he knows an unbelievable amount of information about delicacy and provides only the best for Central Steakhouse. Places like this usually are known for their cuts of meat and not their bottles of wine, but the Central Steakhouse is an exception to this rule. This steakhouse has a wine cellar patrons can walk through. Christian closes his restaurant for a “summer break” every September, partly to allow him time to restock the wine cellar for his annual autumn re-openings.
The Restaurant on 20
400 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT 06103
How does a restaurant that is open just two hours a day for lunch and which serves dinner only one night a week survive? Situated high above Hartford on the 20th floor of the Steam Boiler Building, The Restaurant on 20 offers its devoted patrons one of the finest views of the city along with a delightful and original menu – and a selection of wine to match. Although admitting to not have been “officially trained,” Marwan Idris is the ‘acting sommelier’ and personally chose each of the nearly 100 labels of very fine wine on that list. This is a pricey collection with some available for $40 a bottle and most others at two to eight times that price. Many of the wines are meant only for the more “adventurous,” admits Mr. Idris, but the majority are chosen to pair with the menu and to “hand sell” to diners who might know the label but not the variety.
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