Best New Sommeliers of 2013
Grant Reynolds, Charlie Bird, NYC
"Grant worked at Frasca in Boulder and has a lot of Bobby Stuckey's hospitality instincts; for me, that trumps everything else a sommelier should have." —Robert Bohr
Grant Reynolds hails from Lake Placid, NY, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics and consequently home to a sizeable collection of restaurants and hotels. Like just about everyone else in town, he grew up working in hospitality. ("Not to any pedigree," he adds. "From cleaning tomatoes to washing dishes.") When he was 16, he spent a year studying abroad in Italy's Piedmont, learning Italian and experiencing Piemontese food culture first hand.
He attended college in Boulder, Colorado, and continued to work at restaurants, including a brunch spot that turned out to be a regular haunt of Bobby Stuckey, the Master Sommelier who runs Frasca. Reynolds asked Stuckey about the possibility of working there, and ended up volunteering to put wine away during the day so he could hang out by the wine station at night with Stuckey and sommeliers Matthew Mather and Benjamin Richardson. With Frasca's focus on Italy, and particularly Friuli, Reynold's Italian language skills came in handy, and after a brief refresher trip to Italy, he started working the floor.
Since then it's been a bit of a whirlwind. Eighteen months later, he took a break to focus on passing the Advanced Sommelier exam. Then he headed off to France to work harvest at Domaine Dujac. He also did a stage at Noma in Copenhagen and was planning on returning there when he reconnected with New York–based sommelier Robert Bohr, who coaxed him into settling Stateside to open Charlie Bird this past spring in Manhattan's Soho—as wine director. —Luke Sykora
Composing the List for Bird
We took all the energy that it takes to have a big wine list and honed the selections down to less than 150, with nothing over $250. We wanted everything to be great and fun to drink—and also have some eye-catchers. So wines from the '70s, Bordeaux from the '80s, esoteric Italian whites, plus things like Roumier and Dauvissat. We took a lot of the show of a big wine list out of the way: Instead of 10 vintages of one wine, we'll have one vintage that's pretty great and drinking well right now. The biggest challenge now is keeping wines in stock. With a smaller list, you can really move through a lot of wine.
The Key Question
"How much do you want to spend tonight?" In the end, money is huge in terms of making someone comfortable with their selection.
Right now we have the Bartolo Mascarello Dolcetto d'Alba, which is super, super good—and it's not super expensive.
The Stuckey Factor
Bobby is just a hard worker with incredible amounts of knowledge. When he's at Frasca, he's as much a maître d' as a sommelier, and sometimes even more so. He has an uncanny ability to make people feel welcome.
Dinner at Dujac
Every night we did these dinners—the harvest interns and the Seysses family. They've been trading wines with all of the great winemakers in France—wines I'd only read about and dreamed of having, and there's no concern over whether the wine's fake or how it's been stored. It's been in their cellar for decades. And Jacques and Jeremy Seysses are at the table to answer the most detailed questions and tell stories.
They've created this incredible culture—a group of young kids from 20 different countries. People are working 100 hours a week, there's no letting up. But they really allow people to have their own personality on the floor, to have fun and let it be unpretentious.
New York Haunts
One of the best meals I've had of late was at NoMad. I like to go to Jack's Wife Freda for brunch, and Pearl & Ash to drink wine. Or Bar Boulud—Michael Madrigale is great. I moved to New York because I genuinely believe it is the greatest place in the world to drink wine.