On Thursday, June 11, 2020, Anthony Garcia will be working a shift with VinePair to answer any and all of your wine questions. No question is too simple or too advanced. Text a Somm is a fundraiser in partnership with The United Sommeliers Foundation to benefit the thousands of wine professionals whose careers have been put on hold during the Covid-19 crisis. In addition to paying the sommelier for their shift, VinePair will be making a donation to the USF, and so can you by clicking here. Text your questions to Anthony from 7-10 PM ET on Thursday, June 11 at (914) 580-4540.
Anthony Garcia is a sommelier at The Immigrant Restaurant, an upscale eatery in Plymouth, Wis. The restaurant is part of The American Club, which was originally founded by the family-owned Kohler Co. in 1918 to house European immigrants in pursuit of the American dream.
The Immigrant Restaurant “once housed a bowling alley and laundry for immigrant workers in the early stages of Kohler,” Garcia tells VinePair. “It now celebrates the heritage of people who helped shape and continue to grow Kohler Co. within hospitality.” The restaurant’s menu reflects this, with European influences in its contemporary American cuisine.
“Being in a state very focused on cheese, fish fry, and beer, the Immigrant Restaurant sets itself apart by bringing an elevated experience and a cuisine unique to the area,” says Garcia. At The Immigrant Restaurant, Garcia manages a wine program with 1,300 selections, bringing hard-to-obtain wines to Wisconsin from around the world. Here, he tells VinePair about bonding with guests over baseball, and why staying at home can mean drinking more exciting wines.
1. What are you drinking the most in quarantine?
To expand my knowledge, I’ve been drinking bourbon regularly. My wine hero during this quarantine season has been Barda Pinot Noir from Patagonia, which we serve by the glass at the restaurant. I truly stand by everything we serve. It is price-friendly, but not easy to get your hands on, especially in non-wine-oriented states.
2. What is the most expensive/ridiculous/memorable bottle you’ve opened in quarantine?
Being at home has made it much more difficult to stay away from my exciting wines, like my early ‘90s Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain. I greatly enjoy drinking these special, high-caliber wines with my wife, but she is pregnant at the moment, so we’ll be waiting a little longer.
I’d say the wine I’ve opened during this time that’s been most memorable is Titus Andronicus, which goes way back in my wine career. We carried this wine when I worked at the Geneva Inn Restaurant in Lake Geneva, Wis., and it was made even more special when I met a member of their family. Phillip Titus, who created this wine, also creates wines for Chappellet Winery.
3. How do you make guests feel comfortable if they seem intimidated by you (in a restaurant)?
I deeply believe that it all ties back to being hospitable from the start of the experience. I personally have been intimidated by restaurant professionals in the past, and I have learned from those moments. I start by getting to know you, reading the room, and making you feel welcome by trying to relate to you. Who knows, we may have the same hometown or root for the same baseball team. People come into a restaurant for an experience, so it’s our job to blow them away and make them feel comfortable.
4. What’s the best wine you can get at the grocery or discount store?
Before I reveal the answer, I must tell you, wine selections in rural areas can be full of mass-produced wines. Since I live in one of these areas, it’s a fun challenge to recommend high-quality wines that are both easy to come by and pocket-friendly. For example, it’s a much different situation than when I lived in Chicago.
So, let’s jump into it: Daou Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles is one that I’ve been both shocked and happy to see around. André Tchelistcheff, one of the most influential winemakers following Prohibition, who helped California wine reach the elite status it has today, spoke volumes of Paso Robles. Daou is making wines that over-deliver, and the quality can go up against many wines in higher price ranges.
5. What regions and styles of wines are you most interested in?
Wines from Oregon, and Piedmont in northern Italy, have a freshness and earthiness that tell you about more than just the fruit; they speak about terroir. Wines from cooler regions tend to have grapes that spend more time in the vineyard. A little extra time in the vineyards allows grapes to build character and complexity.
6. What’s the best way to ask for a budget-friendly bottle at a restaurant?
Simply ask your sommelier or server what they have in your desired price range and leave the rest to us. This gives us the goal of wanting to over-deliver and wow you. There are amazing wines in every price range and it is our job to help you experience these wines.
7. Which regions offer the best value?
Côtes du Rhône appellation within the Rhône Valley. Many talented, high-quality producers in this sliver of land in France create amazing wine that can be expensive, but these same producers also create inexpensive selections with different terroir.
8. Where do you like to buy wine online (or which clubs do you recommend)?
I have two online sites I highly recommend: Benchmarkwine.com has an amazing selection of wines, where you can likely find any birth-year wine. They will sometimes add free shipping to your order once you hit a specific price point. Also, Winebid.com is fun and competitive without being intimidating. Wines are listed and bidding starts well below MSRP — auctions close every Sunday.