Wine knowledge is an essential pillar of any sommelier’s professional repertoire. Knowing how to share that knowledge is equally, if not more important. Indiana-based sommelier Josh Mazanowski believes this is the key to his role at Beholder: building trusting relationships with guests without bombarding them with technical information.
“I don’t need to have you know … every river in France, and all the soil types, and all the major producers that you should only be drinking,” Mazanowski told the Indianapolis Business Journal in 2018. “I’m not that.”
An Indianapolis native, Mazanowski is the 13th of 16 children. He says growing up in a large family taught him “the importance of food and hospitality,” while a 12-year stay in Seattle provided vital experience in a range of food- and wine-related roles, including at bars and restaurants, a winery, and a clam and oyster farm.
In 2013, Mazanowski returned to Indianapolis where he met his now-business-partner, Jonathan Brooks, chef de cuisine at the since-closed Recess. The pair worked together for 18 months, before Brooks left to open Milktooth, an award-winning brunch restaurant in the city’s Fletcher Place neighborhood.
In 2016, Brooks started planning a dinner-only spot. Knowing that wine would be critical to the establishment’s success, he turned to his friend and former colleague, Mazanowski. “With wine, Josh has the perfect demeanor,” Brooks told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “He has an enormous wealth of wine knowledge, but he’s not the type of person that has to show you all the cards at one time.”
The duo opened Beholder in June 2018. Since then, the restaurant has brought “deliciously offbeat” dinner options that pair a rich array of New American fare with a 150-strong wine list.
Here, Mazanowski shares the best (and worst) bottles in his fridge right now, the wine that made him “rethink what is possible,” and what he would drink if wine were off the table.
1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
1985 Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle Hermitage. I had loved Syrah prior to this and had known of its potential for excellence. Then I drank the Chapelle ’85 and went all Tears for Fears “Head Over Heels.” It was perfect, like reading a new book in just one sitting because the words compel you to keep going. I had been a wine professional for years before tasting this, and then BOOM, upgrade! This wine made me rethink what is possible.
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay?
Well, trick question… [among] the top 10 wines I have had the pleasure of smelling and tasting: Pinot Noir is there… Chardonnay is there… Cabernet is definitely there. That said… I would kill Chardonnay, it’s the “Joker” of wine. I would F Cabernet-Sauvignon-dominant blends via first-growth Bordeaux. If and when I get to drink it, it can rewrite your genetic code and make you feel superhuman. I would marry Pinot Noir because it has the ability to make me more thoughtful and inspires me to be a better person.
3. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper wine?
A magnum of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay, any vintage. Rare, powerful, and complex, it would be a great wine to drink before I get amped.
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru — this would do just fine. Yeah, I know it’s the most expensive wine in the world, but there is a reason for that and I’m all in.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
1200 Bistro in Seattle, Wash., [circa] early 2000s, with all the badass people that worked there. The establishment no longer exists, even as a building, but it was the bar/restaurant that shaped my idea of what a cool space looks like. It would be nice to go back and live in that moment as a young 20-something, reading a sci-fi novel, [and] drinking blueberry tea (the [alcoholic] libation) on the nights it’s raining far too much. Cheers to Kenny Carlson!
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
Best wine: 1995 Château Margaux. I can’t wait to have a moment with this beauty.
The worst bottle is the best bottle that’s corked — a snake in the grass aiming to ruin my day. Always a bummer of a moment when you’ve aged a wine only to have it be spoiled by 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA).
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?
Vodka. They say I am Polish.