Have you heard of a destination hotel? a destination restaurant? Well, for me, it’s a destination wine list!
In researching wine lists by terroir, I found HUSK restaurant, with locations in South Carolina and Nashville. I reached out to the gracious, smart, hardworking and handsome David Sawyer, Certified Sommelier and Manager at HUSK in Charleston, South Carolina for an interview about their wine list by soil type.
I think you’ll enjoy the engaging dialogue on HUSK’s unique wine list (although you won’t be able to hear his British accent). The wine list can be viewed at http://huskrestaurant.com.
BIO: David Sawyer, Certified Sommelier and Manager at HUSK in S. Carolina
David was born and raised in Manchester, England and introduced to wine at an early age by his father, a Bordeaux lover, and David never forgot how stunning it was. At the age of 22, he moved to New York City and became a successful fashion still life photographer for some of the world’s most renowned companies, whilst also collaborating with Appellation, Saveur, Food & Wine and Martha Stewart magazines to shoot wine and food stories.
After 25 years pursuing his first passion of photography, he has now pursued his second passion in life, wine. David became a Certified Sommelier in December 2014 & is presently the Sommelier of Husk Restaurant in Charleston S.C. serving guests’ every beverage need, helping them learn more about, understand and appreciate the many facets of wine and food pairings. David enhances a guest’s complete dining experience.
David is the charming and engaging Sommelier at Husk. He has followed his passion(s) in life and should be an example for all of us! The third question I asked him was actually a question from one of my wine mentors and friends.
Q: David, what is your title at HUSK, S. Carolina?
A: I’m the Sommelier at HUSK in S. Carolina. I taste wines every Wednesday with Cappie Peete, Beverage Director for the Neighborhood Dining Group, and the wine reps, keeping detailed tasting notes.
Q: David, please tell readers about your process of becoming a Sommelier.
A: I lived in Manhattan and worked as a photographer for 25+ years. I was passionate about two things-photography and wine. I eventually collected wine.
October 2014, I attended ICC ( http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com). I then moved to Charleston area with my wife and got in touch with every wine person I could find. The Charleston Wine and Food Festival happened to be going on then. I met Matt Tunstall, the prior Somm at HUSK. He offered me the chance to get restaurant experience which led to being hired to train in management and train with Matt. When Matt left to open his own wine bar, he recommended me as his replacement. Right place , right time, a lot of hard work and passion. Here I am and it’s fantastic!
Q: David, how does this wine list work for normal people ( i.e. not us wine geeks)?
A: Well, it’s better to think about something than just go into your normal rote routine. I recently took over the program, the idea of the wine list is to mirror the vision of the kitchen and Chef Sean Brocks. He is all about a sense of place, about what the earth gives you, protecting and reintroducing heritage. For example, rices that have been lost through mass production/ mass farming. Chef Brock is about bringing back heritage food. So, in that sense, the wine list gives a sense of where the wine is grown, a sense of place.
[ Wine and Meaning notes the following from Neighborhood Dining Groups website: “In November 2010 (James Beard Award-winning) Chef Brock opened his second restaurant with the Neighborhood Dining Group. Husk, only serves food that is indigenous to the South. “If it ain’t Southern, it ain’t walkin’ in the door,” Brock says. The emphasis at Husk is on the ingredients and the people who grow them, and a large chalkboard lists artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen.” ]
Q: The focus of this blog is the meaning in things, this wine list shows a sense of place and a sense of meaning!
A: Our nearest state is Virginia, we carry Virginia wines to represent the geographically local producers. We also represent a good amount of American wines. It’s about celebrating farmers and grape growers and a sense of place with wine! It’s our priority to pick and find wine to put on the list to represent that. People do get confused by the wine list : but we explain that it is a mirror of the vision of the Chef, a sense of place with food and wine.
Q: David, please describe for readers how the wine list came about?
A: Yes, we know food and wine go together, it’s one. Because of Chef Sean’s vision of sense of place with food, the intention is to marry the philosophy of the two, food and wine with a sense of place. So, we don’t have a lot of heavily oaked, buttery Chardonnay. If that’s to a customer’s chagrin, I may suggest to them that they try a wine out of their comfort zone and explore a little.
Q: I would assume this wine list attracts a lot of wine geeks.
A: It does. I have some really interesting conversations with people. I am always learning too. It’s fascinating. I am social and will strike a dialogue with the table, if they’re open. On the other hand, I sometimes get a customer who’ll say “I like red wine” and I will ask ” what type of red wine do you like” the customer may answer ” I like $10 red wine” and I will set them up with that as I want to facilitate that for the customer.
Q: I love that you have a wine from Lebanon, Slovenia, and a sparkling wine on here from Virginia. I love when people can be exposed to something outside of what they expect.
( wine and meaning notes- the Virginia Sparkling wine is listed under soil type Alluvial on the wine list. Here is the description of ALLUVIAL: Alluvial soils have good water & nutrient retention, which can translate into a more opulent style of wine. It is often found in combination the wind blown loess or loam soils. Throughout the world, these are the most prolific vine soils )
A: I’m looking right now to get a Chilean wine on the list. I also to like to change the list with the change of seasons. It does get a little cooler here and it’s nice to reflect that in wine choices. We have classics as well, like our Rioja, it’s classic Rioja from Lopez De Heredia, “Vina Tondonia” Reserva, 2002. We also have a wonderful Châteauneuf-du-Pape, “La Crau” from Ravardel, 2009 on the list right now. If a customer loves a Napa Cab, I might suggest another wine, based on their liking a Napa Cab. People may not know about orange wine, I can explain it and they may decide to try it. We have a New York Pinot Noir, Forge “Les Allies” 2013 that blew me away, customers are often surprised to learn New York has great Pinot Noir. What’s really fun is, when a table orders a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon (west coast) and one from New York (east coast) and see what they think, see the different interpretation of the same grape from different parts of the United States.
Q: How often do the wine selections on the wine list change? and if the wine list changes, do the headings of soil type always remain same?
A: Yes, the soil types listed remain the same, and yes, quite frequently, the wine list does change because many wines are limited, we get allocations that are quite small. We are lucky to get allocations that are often exclusive. For example, the state of South Carolina may only receive 10 cases of a certain wine and we may just take them all! Then, we’re the only one with them, which is cool, but when it’s gone, it’s really gone. I always research the soil types of prospective wines for the wine list.
Q: Let’s take a wine from your wine list and pair it with a food item on the menu.
A: Right now, we have two different types of oysters on the menu. One has chicken fat, roasted in our wood burning oven and is a little richer and one is more classic. I would pair those for the table with our Sparkling Rosé, a Txakolina from Ameztoi, “Hijo de Rubentis” 2013. You have the berry with the citrus, a really refreshing beverage. You have salinity, richness, chicken fat and holy basil in one of the oyster dishes. Both choices pair well with the wine’s good minerality, good acidity and lemon/lime.
If you were doing the specific wine you quoted earlier, the Lebanon-Bekaa Valley-Chateau Musar “Musar Jeune” 2012, which we carry by the glass, I would recommend the pig ear and lettuce wraps. The wine is young with good tannins, good acidity and some meatiness to it. The pig ears are sliced really thin, fried, and served with pickled onion.
(wine and meaning notes- the Musa Jeune 2012 is on the wine list under Limestone soil type. Here is the description from the wine list: LIMESTONE
Limestone is made primarily from fossilized seashells. It possesses the ability to store water for irrigation, which is essential for wine growth. Its alkaline nature encourages high acidity grapes to flourish)
Q: David, what is your every day wine? What is your splurge wine? Do you have a favorite wine quote?
A: I drink Chablis and also Manzanilla (nutty, saline, refreshing) is my go-to early evening drink. My splurge is a Bordeaux. I still have that classic side to me. My wine quote would be ” less muscle, more soul “.
Q: David, would you please suggest a resource for my readers who want to learn more about wine?
A: Yes. The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.
Q: Did your family have wine on the table all the time, where did you develop such interest about food and wine pairing?
A: When you live and work in Italy, you suddenly understand food. As I understood food, my passion for wine escalated. Terroir becomes understood, tomatoes in Italy taste different than tomatoes elsewhere. They’re grown in different soil, climates, etc. You understand when the region has truffles, why Barolo goes so well because of it’s umami characteristics. What grows with it, goes with it.
Q: David, you’ve been generous with your time and thank you. One last question. The wine from Slovenia on your wine list at HUSK S.C, would you describe it for the readers please?
A: It’s classic, it’s what I like to call a white wine that reads like a red wine. It’s shows true to its locality. You’ve got some pear, banana, apple on the palate. Some overripe peach as well. Good acidity and a hint of nuttiness.
Wine and Meaning asks the readers: Whose hungry? Which of you wine lovers is up for a road trip to Charleston?