Food & Wine magazine has long celebrated chefs for their work in the kitchen. In recent years, it's also done more to recognize contributors in the front of the house. Today the magazine publishes a list of top sommeliers, and the 2015 winners include Molly Wismeier, wine director at Restaurant R'evolution.
Gambit spoke to Wismeier, Broussard's Restaurant's Chris Ycaza and Brennan's Joe Billesbach about pairing wine and food.
Wismeier gained her extensive wine and spirits experience at top Chicago restaurants including Charlie Trotter's, Ambria and Tru. At R'evolution (777 Bienville St., 504-553-2277; www.revolutionnola.com) she oversees a cellar stocked with 10,000 bottles.
R'evolution's menu spans everything from rustic Louisiana dishes to lavish caviar presentations. To go with crawfish bisque, Wismeier recommends a 2012 Kofererhof, Gewurztraminer, a German style of wine made in Alto Adige Valle, Italy.
"This gewurztraminer will accommodate the bisque's spice and texture and is a perfect pairing because it has great acidity and good ripe lychee, melon and lemon (flavors) to match the crawfish spice," Wismeier says.
The wine is less than $20 at stores, so home cooks could serve it with their own crawfish bisque.
For R'evolution diners sharing the charcuterie board, which includes house-made pickles, a couple of terrines and other accoutrements, Wismeier chooses a wine to accommodate the range of textures and flavors: 2014 Clos Alivu Patrimonio, a rose made with nielluccio from Corsica, France.
"This rose is juicy, thirst quenching and full of (flavors of) strawberry, cherry and dried currants," she says. "Dry and full-bodied, it's perfect for all the different types of meats served on our various charcuterie plates."
People entertaining at home also can find the rose for less than $20 at local retail stores and serve it with cheese and meat platters.
Rigatoni with meat ragu calls for another Italian wine and Wismeier chooses 2011 Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne.
"The barbera grape is kind of like merlot with some zinfandel fruit qualities — dry, robust, full of black and red fruits," she says. "I like pairing this traditional Piemonte grape with meat-focused sauces just like you would in Italy."
One of the most popular dishes on R'evolution's menu is the "Triptych of Quail," which Wismeier says calls for 2012 Michel Magnien Bourgogne Rouge.
"This pinot noir is elegant — bursting with dry cranberries, full-bodied with an elegant, long, mineral-driven finish," she says.
For the braised, boneless short ribs, Wismeier recommends 2011 Red Mare cabernet sauvignon from Oakville, California.
"This is a well-balanced wine that matches the texture of the short ribs and pairs well with the sauce and the rutabaga puree," she says.
Wismeier offers a less expensive option to drink with the ribs: 2012 Duorum, "Tons de Duorum" from Douro, Portugal.
"A blend of touriga Franca and other grapes usually found in Port wine, this wine drinks a lot like Zinfandel," Wismeier says. "It has intense red and black fruits and is dry and full-bodied, much like a cabernet sauvignon."
Chris Ycaza has directed the wine programs at Cuvee and Galatoire's. In the past two years as general manager and wine director at Broussard's (819 Conti St., 504-581-3866; www.broussards.com) he has assembled a wide array of wines for the restaurant's list.
Broussard's menu of contin- ental and Creole dishes includes appetizers such as the house pate, featuring brandied duck liver mousse.
"This dish just begs for a beautiful sparkling wine," Ycaza says. "The Wolfberger Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose from France provides a nice interplay between the wine's effervescence and the smooth mousse, with good acidity to cut through the richness."
For a red wine accompaniment, he suggests 2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, La Bauge Au-dessus, from Central Coast California's Santa Maria Valley to match with the texture and earthiness of the pate.
Pan-seared Georges Bank sea scallops is a signature dish at Broussard's. Ycaza recommends ordering a 2009 Domaine Marcel Deiss Muscat d'Alsace "Bergheim" from France to go with it.
"The (dish) gets its exotic spice from the rum-browned butter," he says. "This wine offers diverse, spicy, exotic aromatics to stand up to the dish."
Both the dinner and brunch menus feature a dish that's become increasingly common: New Orleans' barbecue shrimp and grits. With Broussard's version, Ycaza recommends Wolfberger Cremant Rose or a rose Champagne. Other options include roses such as 2013 Bandol Rose from Chateau Pradeaux, 2013 Bisson Ciliegiolo Rose from Portofino and 2012 Bastianich Refosco Rosato from Venezia.
"Each of these wines has the balanced acidity, weight and texture to make great pairings with this fun take on a New Orleans' classic," Ycaza says.
Home cooks can take Ycaza's advice and find an array of dry roses for $15 to $20 at wine shops.
Broussard's burger also is available at brunch and dinner. To go with the half-pound ground tenderloin patty topped with bacon and smoked cheddar, Ycaza offers a pair of French syrahs: 2013 Laurent Combier Crozes-Hermitage and the 2009 Domaine Saladin Chaveyron 1422. Both are moderately priced.
For Broussard's pistachio-crusted rack of Colorado lamb with apricot barbecue glaze, Ycaza selects 2011 Shatter Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes.
At the newly renovated Brennan's (417 Royal St., 504-525-9711; www.brennansneworleans.com), beverage manager/sommelier Joe Billesbach minds the restaurant's cellar and helps patrons pair wines with their meals. Billesbach has worked in restaurant kitchens as well as the front of the house and gained experience at chef Thomas Keller's New York restaurant Per Se.
The new Brennan's menu fea-tures smoked squab and foie gras gumbo, and Billesbach pairs it with a German wine from Mosel: 2004 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese.
"The wine plays well with the fattiness of the foie gras," he says. "The foie gras' savory notes and richness pair well with the nicely aged wine's robust flavors."
Flounder a la meuniere with escargot, baby fennel and herbsaint nage is rich dish that allows for different pairing options. Billesbach says some diners will want to match the butter-sauced dish with a lean California chardonnay, such as the 2013 Qupe Bien Nacido "Y" Block from Santa Maria Valley. "The wine exhibits a tangy, fresh, savory character and vibrant acidity without overpowering the dish," he says. "Or the diner may want to go in another direction and offset the flounder's buttery element with a 2013 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre, offering an herbaceous character, intense minerality and a citrus quality to cut through the butter."
Pepper-seared tuna is served with a cassoulet of black-eyed peas, and Billesbach recommends pairing it with Veuve Clicquot Brut Rose Champagne, because of the wine's palate-cleansing properties. A pinot noir would also make a good pairing, he says.
"The 2013 Chateau de la Greffiere Bourgogne Rouge has a classic style with good ripeness, fruit, structure and no oak," he says. "It's lively with tart red fruit like cranberry and wild strawberry,"
Sugar-roasted duck is another dish Billesbach likes to match with pinot noir. For the dry-rubbed duck, which has some Asian spice, he chooses 2010 Ici/La-Bas "Les Reveles" Elke Vineyard from Anderson Valley.
"The nicely balanced wine shows complex notes of cedar, bright red fruit, savory notes and a natural acidity," he says.
With bacon-roasted venison loin, Billesbach recommends 2005 Bernard Faurie Saint-Joseph Vieilles Vignes from France's Rhone Valley.
"The wine lends aromatics of smoked meat, olives, complementary textures and flavors and there's still that rich red fruit in this restrained and elegant, well-aged bottling."