Brian McClintic, 37, made a name for himself as a star of Somm, a 2012 documentary that followed four master sommelier candidates as they prepared for the difficult wine test. Spoiler alert: McClintic passed, becoming the United States’ 107th holder of the prestigious title. This led him, along with his business partner, Eric Railsback, to recently open Les Marchands—an operation that can only be described as a wine universe—in Santa Barbara, California. “We’re a wine bar, a full retail and e-commerce shop with 16,000 bottles, a private cellar consultancy and a wine club,” McClintic says. “And we offer education programs.” As part of the latter, McClintic is available for house calls, whether to host a tasting or simply pick wines to pair with a meal. Prices upon request; Les Marchands, 131 Anacapa St.; 805-284-0380; lesmarchandswine.com.
No-Fail Dinner-Party Wines
McClintic’s suggestions for all-purpose bottles to serve at the table.
A host can always serve Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot. But big producers often source grapes from various vineyards. Some growers keep their crops and make their own wines from start to finish, which taste great and usually cost less. Try Pierre Peters’s Blanc de Blancs, a crisp Champagne that ages well and retails for about $50.
Austria’s Grüner Veltliner is very versatile. It works with the usual white wine suspects, like shellfish, but also has a spicy vegetable note that does well with difficult pairings like asparagus, artichokes and salads. A great bottle is Weingut Emmerich Knoll’s Grüner Veltliner, which retails from about $30 to $75.
The Gamay grape from France gets a bad rap for its role in low-quality Beaujolais Nouveau. But great Cru Beaujolais, like Jean Foillard’s (about $30), taste and age a lot like high-end red Burgundies. The grapes’ low tannins and juicy fruit flavor make for a good match with white fish as well as chicken and pork.