20,000 Bottle of Wine on the Wall
by Lisa Elbert, Tastemaker in Residence
Rising Star Sommelier David Castleberry curates a wine list with 1,900 selections from a cellar that holds 20,000 bottles, and he's sharing the wealth. "I have a lot of friends who are sommeliers and wine directors in the area, and we thought it would be fun to bring in other somms to do events at RN74," he says. "A lot of them are limited by the nature of their work environment, and they don't get to play with the wines we have here." That's an understatement.
Castleberry invites his peers to step into his cellar, select wines they're passionate about, build a menu in collaboration with Chef Michael Rafidi, and host an intimate dinner at RN74. First, he sends the guest somm an inventory list, a general budget, and a run-of-show for the dinner—a reception with passed hors d'oeuvres, four savory courses, and dessert. With $800 to spend on wine, the somm selects the wines he or she wants to feature. Think vintage Champagnes, 20-year-old grand cru Burgundies, and 100-year-old Chateau D'Yquem.
Castleberry likens the experience to a certain genre: Somms Gone Wild. "We budget the event to break even, not to make a profit. It's our way to give back to the community," he says. Bottom line, Castleberry wants to cultivate the "RN74 experience." For $150 each, 16 people—many regulars and other wine professionals—get to interact with the guest somm, enjoy a tailored menu, and leave with a sweet party favor (a bottle of wine with the menu printed on the label). In turn, RN74 generates buzz and fortifies its reputation as a prestigious (and fun) wine destination.
These Bay Area somms are among the lucky few to step into the cellar at RN74 and curate a menu of their own. Here are the wines they coveted and the dishes they helped create to highlight the juice.
Josiah Baldivino | Bay Grape
Wine you most coveted: Chardonnay, Domaine du Pélican, Jura, France, 2013
Why: The wine is a little funky, and a favorite amongst somms, but not well known by non-somms. This is definitely an at-home kind of pairing, not too fancy. That's what I love about this series: you can do whatever you want. I like to treat it as if my friends are coming over to my house to eat, except RN74 has a badass chef and a deep cellar.
Pairing: Fricassée of Burgundian Snails, Spring Garlic Toast, Woodlands Coppa, Pickled Radish, and Wild Ramps
Menu price: $99
Rajat Parr | Michael Mina Restaurant Group
Wine you most coveted: Chenin Blanc, Samur, Domaine Guiberteau, Loire, France, 2014
Why: I love the balance between the high acidity and the texture of this fine Chenin Blanc. It cuts through the rich flavors of the tuna, while balancing the acidity of the dish.
Pairing: Pacific Tuna, Crispy Anchovy, and Confit Meyer Lemon
Menu price: $65
Gianpaolo Paterlini | 1760
Wine you most coveted: Pinot Noir, Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg, Vosné Romanée, Côte de Nuits, France, 2012
Why: It's a really delicious, hedonistic Burgundy that is very hard to get your hands on. We usually get three to six bottles every year, so to be able to open two for this event was awesome. This was the richest wine I chose, so it ended up with the cheese course.
Pairing: Tommes de Brebis, Tenbrink Apricot, Saba, and Brown Butter-Sumac Crisp
Menu price: $233
DLynn Proctor | Penfolds
Wine you most coveted: Syrah, Cornas Chaillot, Domaine Thierry Allemand, Rhone, France, 2009
Why: While these wines aren't as rare as somms make them seem, they can be tricky to get your hands on. This Chaillot was every essence of smoked game, black olive, cracked white pepper, and tart red plums. The Lamb Neck Tart wasn't bad with it, either.
Pairing: Lamb Neck Tart, Smoked Eggplant, and Black Olive
Menu price: $250