You moved here from NYC, so what differences do you see between how people order wine on the left coast versus the right?
People order a lot more local things out here, and they're quick to order local things as long as they know the name. They're not as worried about price. In New York it takes a lot more work, and there are a lot more old world wines being sold.
Do people at Mina order wines from different regions at different price levels?
Mina has the most versatile wine list in the [Michael Mina Restaurant] group, and people tend to choose California heavily, across all prices.
What do you want to achieve on your list that's different?
One thing I like about my list is that I have cheaper things across the board, cheap things I'd enjoy drinking. I don't want a snooty wine list. I don't want to make people feel uncomfortable. I know what it's like to be on a budget. I want to be accessible to all.
What's an anomaly on your list? A great value?
One wine I'm crazy about now is a Panevino from Sardinia. It's about $60-$70 a bottle, and the story is cool. This family that's really good at baking use their knowledge of yeast to make wine. They do nothing in the vineyards, which look like they are going wild. They use indigenous varietals, and the wine is really really good. There's a bit of earthiness but also ripe fruit, and it's medium bodied like a pinot. It's a great value because it's unique and crowd pleasing. With all the wine I've tasted I've never tasted anything like it. Very tasty.
What's your favorite by-the-glass?
I just put it on [the list]. Gaillard Viognier from the slope that faces Condrieu, so it's a bit cooler. The wine has a bit more tension to it. It's really, really good. It has the peachy notes and white flowers you get from viognier and a nice tautness. New and old world wine drinkers enjoy it. It's a recent discovery for me; I haven't seen it anywhere else. I was so excited that I told the importer to save me all they had.
How about by-the-bottle and by-the-glass from CA?
My top seller, Emeritus pinot noir from Russian River. Very plush, but it has refinement. They have a french winemaker making the wine, and his style is a bit more restrained. Not jammy, but a bit opulent. I love old world wine, but this one is new world with old world swagger.
By the glass, I'm crazy about the Sandhi chardonnay that we have. It's so, so good. It's "new world," but they pick earlier, so there's a bit more acidity, more tension. They only use a tiny bit of new oak, so it also has a great sense of refinement. It's not "blowsy" -- just confident. (Note: This is Rajat Parr's wine; Parr oversees all the Somms for Mina)
What do you drink at home?
I drink a ton of beer.