Standing in the aisle of a wine store can be intimidating, to say the least. Wouldn’t it be great if you had your own sommelier to tell you what to drink, point you in the direction of something new and interesting, shed some light on the dozens of labels staring back at you? Today, as part of a new series on Coravin, we sit down with Joe Quinn, sommelier and wine director at Proof (Washington, D.C.), to give you just that.
KPK: How would you describe your wine drinking style?
JQ: Wine really is, for me, a partner to food. I rarely drink wine without food (and vice versa), and although I drink all over the map, I generally let dinner dictate what I’m drinking.
KPK: What is your go-to wine?
JQ: Riesling. Aside from the fact that there’s just tremendous diversity in styles and extraordinary versatility with food, Riesling just happens to have a structural and flavor profile that I’m hopelessly addicted to—I love the high acidity, fresh stone fruit character and intense minerality.
KPK: What’s your favorite wine region in the world?
JQ: The whole reason I do this is that I don’t have to choose! Every great region has its reason for being and I couldn’t possibly pick one favorite, though Germany’s Mosel comes close.
KPK: Do you have a favorite winemaker or label?
KPK: What are you really excited to be pouring at Proof right now?
JQ: The astounding 1990 vintage of Château d’YQuem by the glass (from Coravin).
KPK: Anything that’s just flying out of Proof’s cellar?
JQ: Cristom’s Pinot Noir remains extremely popular and Oregon pinot is, deservedly, particularly hot right now. We’re also putting more Nebbiolo on tables than I ever expected to.
KPK: What grape varieties do you wish people were drinking more of?
JQ: I try not to get hung up thinking like that—I want people to drink what makes them happy. I just wish more people would realize how happy Riesling and Chenin Blanc could make them.
KPK: You’re having a party, which three wines are you going to serve?
JQ: I’d make sure to have bubbly, a light and fresh white and a red that’s fresh and low in tannin and alcohol. The Vouvray Petillant from François Pinon ($22), the 2012 Riesling Federspiel ‘Steinterrassen’ ($18) from Hirtzberger in Austria’s Wachau, and the 2012 Arianna Occhipinti’s Frappato ($15) from Sicily would be my lineup if I’m hosting tomorrow.
KPK: What was the first wine you drank that gave you pause? Your first great wine memory.
JQ: A very young ’98 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. That was the first time I was confounded and truly intrigued by a wine. This was a little over 10 years ago. That’s the one that made me decide I had to learn more.
KPK: You’re dining at a restaurant you’ve never been to before—what do you look for on the wine list?
JQ: I look all over the list; a sense of what wines and producers are carried in different regions will give me a sense of where the sommelier has a particular interest or affinity, and what styles he or she feels work with the restaurant’s menu. Then I’ll know where I want to focus. If a sommelier has built up a particular favorite region, he or she might have something new and fun to try.
KPK: What’s your favorite wine under $25?
JQ: I’m a jerk for saying it, but beer. I love beer and there are great ones under 15 bucks. If I have to pick a wine, I’d head directly to the Loire Valley. If I can find the Montlouis ‘Dix Arpents’ from Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups, I’m golden.
KPK: What’s your favorite wine to drink when someone else is footing the bill (i.e. money is no object)?
JQ: Really great white Burgundy or really great Barolo or Barbaresco. Like, really old Barolo or Barbaresco. Really old Napa Cabernet from the greats. Please buy me ’70 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard.