Please enjoy our interview with Sommelier of the Month, Beth Hussey of Pop's for Italian in Ferndale, Michigan.
Food and Wine – Favorite combos? What do you find to be the hardest/easiest to match up?
That always depends. At Pop's, we don't like to put our food 'in a box’ and we certainly don’t like to follow the rules. We feel the same about our wines. The weather, your mood (my mood), the company you are keeping at the time. All of those things would play a part in my answer to this question.
Your restaurant - What is your must eat dish on the menu and which wine do you recommend with it?
Almost as hard to answer as “what’s your favorite movie?”, but at least I can narrow it down a bit:
First and foremost, as pizza is my “desert island food”, I would have to say our true Neapolitan Pizza is my very favorite, and more specifically the classic Margherita pizza, which pairs beautifully with Tres Sabores Porque. Red Blend from Rutherford in Napa Valley.
Our Antipasto platter is another favorite dish of ours, which I love to pair with Cieck Erbaluce di Caluso from Piedmont, Italy, as this wine just begs to be paired with cheese.
Lastly, our Gnocchi (sausage, cream, red pepper flakes) is perhaps the most delicious and decadent dish on the menu which I have paired with a few wines. Of course a big, bold Napa Cab is a great compliment to this dish (or any dish as far as I’m concerned). If you asked me which is my favorite Napa Cabernet, I would have to say the one that’s in my glass! But the Cabernet that is currently pouring from our Wine Preservation system is the ever so sought after Plumpack Estate from the Oakville region of Napa. A crisp white wine also pairs beautifully with the richness of this dish; in fact, just last night I enjoyed a glass of Angelo Negro 'Onorato' (Favorita del Roero or Vermentino) from Langhe, Italy with the creamy and delicious gnocchi.
Any tips that you have for decanter newbies?
Practice, practice, practice. Don’t worry so much about which wines to decant, just do it. At Pop’s we have a saying, “if you think you decant, we say you deCAN!”
Can you recommend one red and one white that you find to be crowd pleasers. Suggestions?
For a 'crowd pleaser' I like go for styles rather than specific varietals. For a white, I find somewhere between a Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc style works for most. The Domaine du Pouy Blanc from Cotes de Gascogne, France (a 50/50 blend of Ugni Blanc & Columbard) is a great little value white. For reds, you have a bit more room to play with. A few of my favorites right now are the Marques de Grinon 'Caliza' (blend of Petit Verdot and Syrah) from Castilla La Mancha, Spain. A great summer red would be the Simone Scaletta Dolcetto d'Alba. This guy (Simone) is the Chris Farley of Barolo. Living out of his van for 8 years until he could afford to build his dream winery.
In your opinion, how do Riedel glasses enhance the wine drinking experience?
As a wine-concept that takes a unique and unconventional approach to wine and the way it’s presented on our ever-rotating menu, choosing to use Riedel Varietal Specific glasses was by far the best and most important decision I made. The message that it sends to our guests; and more importantly to our employees, is that we are serious about wine and aside from the juice itself, the glass it’s delivered in is the most important element. After having attended a few Riedel Seminars where I had the chance to experience the difference between a wine in the right glass, side by side with a wine in the wrong glass, I was sold. The difference is Night and Day. At a seminar hosted by Georg Riedel himself, he said “you would be better off serving wine in a paper cup that to serve it in the wrong glass.” I couldn’t agree more.
Any big trends that you have been noticing in the wine industry?
The biggest trend I have seen most recently in our part of the world (Metro Detroit/Ferndale/Michigan) is curiosity, adventure, an appreciation for the finer things in life. There has been a food and beverage renaissance in our market in the last three years. A move from the 'comfort brands' to the lesser known. It is incredibly exciting for someone like me. There will always be a need and a place for all of the 'go-to' brands, but I love seeing the little guys get their day in the spotlight too.