In the world of wine, there is no shortage of labels grabbing for attention. From cheeky names and bright, contemporary design, to Old World lineages with careful illustrations of generations-old chateaus, choosing a wine can be outright daunting. And seeking expert advice is often even more so; the fear of asking the wrong type of question, exposing a perceived ignorance, is enough to keep most people mum. George Miliotes, Master Sommelier with Darden restaurant group, overseer of wine selections for The Capital Grille and Seasons 52, is hoping to change that. As the 152nd inducted member of the elite Court of Master Sommeliers, of which there are only 227 worldwide, Miliotes wants to make selecting wine an uncomplicated and enjoyable experience.
With nearly 100 restaurants under his direction, Miliotes travels the globe, visiting vineyards and wineries in search of that next great bottle. The wine lists he manages are carefully constructed, building out from strong mid-level wines, filling the gaps from there. For variation, Miliotes enacted a “Drink Them Before They’re Famous” supplement to Seasons 52 wine lists, where every season he selects a handful of vintages, usually from makers flying under the radar, regions that are not well-known, and/or varietals that have not yet taken off with the wine-drinking public. It gives diners a chance to “discover” something new.
For The Capital Grille, Miliotes has added a dose of education to the wine enjoyment this summer with The Generous Pour, the restaurant’s popular annual wine event, beginning July 6 to August 30, that highlights a select varietals, allowing diners to pair the curated list with dinner. Below, Miliotes shares with us what to uncork, paired with some expert advice for you to act the summer oenophile with confidence.
What’s your go-to varietal for the summer heat?
I do not have one go-to varietal for the summer, but I do have one go-to type of wine and that is unoaked white. There are so many styles and choices that there is a wine for everyone and every party.
- Chenin Blanc
- Vinho Verde
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Gruner Veltliner
- Or my favorite wine geek choice, Ribolla Gialla.
This is a short list. Each country and often each region has a specialty white that is perfect for the summer.
The attribute that I love about this type of white wine is that they all tend to have crisp finishes. This means they keep my palate alive and happy. None of them have the thicker more lactic mouthfeel of oak-aged wines, so they tend to have clean and simple flavors. Since many are from Europe (Old World) they can also be lower in alcohol, which is good when chasing children in the pool.
The other beauty of these wines is that their crisp finishes help them to pair beautifully with food that we love outside. From chicken or hot dogs on the grill, to homemade guac, fresh cheese or shellfish, these wines tend to please.
Now, if you need a red wine, get the best bottle of Beaujolais (or domestic Gamay from Oregon) that you can find.
Chilled or room temp: What are some of the basic tenets on the temperature to serve wine during the summer?
I have to come clean here, wine seldom stays in my glass too long to become warm, but in the summer we love to drink our crisp whites cool but not ice cold. Around 55 to 70 suits us just fine. And we keep the bottle at the perfect temperature by resting it on top of the ice, not submerged in ice and water.
With red we again like it cool, in the 60-degree range. This may mean popping the bottle in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving and again resting it on top of a small amount of ice.
When relaxing poolside on a warm afternoon, what is your go-to bottle?
Right now, we are totally enamored with Vinho Verde, especially Vinho Verde Rosé. It is light, crisp, slightly effervescent, lower alcohol, and not very expensive wine from Portugal. While its simple and direct citrus flavors will not win it any wine aging contests, it is fun and easy to drink, appeals to just about everyone, and pairs easily with a wide range of food. You can have friends over and not break the bank, but be a wine trendsetter at the same time. What is better than that?
Do you have any interesting alternatives to the mimosa for brunch?
There are so many fruit juices available today that make for great blending with sparkling wine. So, go out and get a bottle or two of your favorite Cava or Prosecco and go to town. Pomegranate, raspberry, açai are three that are available just about anywhere, or if you have your own juicer, go find something fresh (freshly juiced strawberries are delicious) and juice it yourself. What ever you choose, it will be your spin on a mimosa.
Light on bubbles: For someone that enjoys Champagne, but looking for something a little lighter on the effervescence, what would you suggest?
Prosecco (single fermentation bubbles from central Italy) and Cava (Spanish sparkling made by the same method as Champagne) are two sparklers that always please in my book. While the Prosecco can be a little less effervescent and Cava does not bring the cache as Champagne, they are both much easier on the pocket book.
When constructing a pairing menu, what are some guidelines to stick to when moving from course to course?
I like to construct my food menu and wine to be a logical progression in weight and power. First a crisp white wine, often with shellfish or seafood. Then move to a Rosé or light white, and finish with a red wine, especially if you serve steak from the grill. The main thing to remember is the weight of your food and wine should be a progression upward.
When planning those summer barbecues, what sort of wines would you choose to serve with goods from the grill?
Keep it simple. While everyone is running around having fun outside (or by the pool lounging), lighter wines are served—Rosé Vinho Verde (VV) at my house. We usually do grazing for the majority of the time so the VV pairs perfectly with the diverse flavors of cheeses and small bites of food. Once the main course comes out, whether it is a sliced filet, Delmonico steaks, or grilled skirt steak, it deserves a tasty red. Favorites here would be Napa Merlot (better prices than Napa Cab, same quality though) for the classicist, or a red from the emerging Spanish wine [region] of Montsant (Zerran is our favorite) for the wine explorer.