Seth Thomases – BiNA Osteria

1. For which restaurant do you work? For how long have you worked there? What is your Position?

I am  a recent addition to the team at BiNA Osteria, having started over the summer in July. Officially, my title is Manager/Beverage Director.

2. How long have you been in the restaurant industry?

I’ve been working with wine and in restaurants for 6 or 7 years, getting my start in New York City, but having recently become a part of the Boston restaurant community.

3. What first attracted you to wine?

I’ve long been a fan/lover of both food and wine. I once dreamed of going to culinary school and becoming a chef, but I quickly learned the back of the house was not for me and that I wanted to be up front. I find that food and wine go hand in hand and, very much in the European tradition, good food should always be accompanied by good wine and visa versa.

4. What is your favorite wine, varietal or otherwise? Why?

Right now, I keep coming back to the wines of Northern Italy, especially Friuli (and Slovenia). For whites, the funkier the better. People talk about white, red, even pink wines, but what about orange wine? Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, and other indigenous varieties aged in amphora or oven vat fermenters… delicious! And for reds, I love something spicy, earthy, herbaceous… Refosco, Schioppettino. Not only are these wines incredibly versatile when it comes to food pairings, but they’re wines that you want to think about as you’re drinking!

5. What wine, or country/region of origin, do you wish people would appreciate more?

I worked with New York State wines for a long time and I think there are some incredible wines being produces that get very much overlooked because of the stigma against domestic wines for the East Coast (and in terms of bang for your buck, there are few ‘bargains’… yet some values). There are several wineries in the Finger Lakes that are making some world-class Riesling that rival Alsace and Germany. And Bordeaux varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Long Island have a quality in and of themselves that just screams where they were made.

6. What wine on your list is currently your most successful? Why do you feel that particular wine is so successful? What wine on your list are you currently most passionate about? Why?

We just started pouring the Sottimano Mate by the glass, a still and dry Brachetto from a wonderful Barbaresco producer. When the weather is warm outside and maybe you don’t feel like white wine, a delicate, lighter perfumed red (that you can even chill a bit) does the job for me. I’m certainly not anti-Pinot Noir (and I would probably be crucified if I said such things), but we’re not pouring one by the glass right now and the Mate offered a little something different as an alternative… so we sell a lot if it. In terms of my own passion, bringing it back to the orange wines, if I can turn anyone with an open mind onto Gravner Ribolla Gialla, that’s a victory right there.

7. How do you train your staff to sell wines with which guests may be less familiar?

The key to expose guests to unfamiliar wines is to compare it to something that they may have know or tried previously. So the staff and I taste wines together and talk about what other wines we may be able to compare them to. I find that most diners are willing to explore something new that they haven’t tried before with just a little bit of guidance.

8. What is your favorite thing about your job?

The favorite thing about my job is opening up peoples eyes to the world of wine beyond the familiar, beyond big names and seeing how much they enjoy something that they may have never even considered before.

9. What do you expect to happen, in terms of trends in the world of wine, in the near future? What can the world of wine expect from you in the near future?

I am a huge supporter of craft beer, both domestic and imported. I feel like great beer is soon going to gain the same status as great wine, in talking about complex flavor profiles, subtle stylistic differences and even ideal food pairings. After all, more and more producers are bottling their best brews in 750ml or 22oz bottles and the alcohol levels are creeping up to around 10%, very close to table wine levels. When you start thinking about beer this way, you’re now presenting an incredible value in terms of quality compared to wines priced similarly.

10. If the world was to end tomorrow and money was no object, what would you choose for your last meal…and of course the pairing?

To be honest, the best meal that I’ve ever had was the Farmer’s Feast tasting menu at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in late summer. I want that again… but maybe early fall this time. And usually when I’m in the hands of other restaurant professionals who most likely know their list better than me, I put the pairings in their hands.