In the Cellar: Roo Buckley
The staff at the Wine Thief knows a thing or two about wine, and bartender Roo Buckley is no exception. The former chef/owner of the beloved Coda, sometime pastry chef, and lifetime foodservice pro has been behind the bar at the popular restaurant since last fall.
Anyone who had the privilege of experiencing the former Coda’s wild ice cream offerings knows that Buckley is a fan of taking risks and trying new things, and his approach to wine is no less brazen. He’s also exceptionally skilled at making his customers—oenophiles and neophytes alike—feel right at home.
This month, Buckley agreed to answer Spree’s vino-centric questions, and to provide our readers with a few wine recommendations for a Mediterranean-themed get-together, like the one Chef Joe George writes about on the opposite page.
Name: Richard Buckley.
Number of years in the food and beverage industry: 24 .
Current job title(s): Bartender at the Wine Thief/Chef-at-Large for Glorious Affairs.
Previous work: I have been everything from “the kid on the fryer tonight” to “Chef” and everything in between—both in the kitchen and on the floor. Currently making plans to be the “grumpy night prep guy/baker.”
Favorite wine memory: At twenty-three I cracked open a bottle of 1983 Rutherford Hill Merlot (sorry, Dad), which at that point was ten years old. I was amazed at the complexities and the nose, and it really inspired me to learn more and become more serious about my career in hospitality.
Favorite food and wine pairing at the Wine Thief: A glass of Gotham Shiraz with the pork chop, or a glass of Torrontes paired with the duck taco.
Best unlikely food and wine pairing: Brunello with dark-chocolate-dipped sundried tomatoes—the gummy bear for the serious foodie.
Varietal of choice: I don’t have a favorite, but if I see an obscure one on a wine list, I’ll order it. Brouilly, Gigondas, Jura, Portugese whites—I could never order “the house red.” I always want to try something new.
Favorite under-the-radar wine: Portuguese wines, inexpensive and interesting. Think of where South America was ten years ago, but with the maturity of Old World soil and practices. There are great edges and flat plains of flavor that all of a sudden melt into fields of wildflowers or thundering torrents of stone.
Favorite local winery: Knapp for their Riesling, Leonard Oakes for their potential.
Winery in the world I’d most like to visit: Chateau Petrus.
My go-to recommendation for a wine novice is: Anything written by Andrea Immer. I met her in NY when she was attending the French Culinary Institute. (I was already an alumnus.) I find her approach to be very friendly and designed for the novice.
If I owned only one reference book about wine it would be: The Wine Lover’s Companion by Barron’s.
The misconception most people have about wine is: “I don’t know anything about wine”—to which I counter, “You know what you like, don’t you?” Wine is this wonderful art form where everything is subjective; what I love, you might not. Sweet isn’t for me, and the person next to me can’t stand dry. Butter, stone, flowers, fat, barnyard .... there is something for everyone out there. Just drink it! If you don’t like it, try the next bottle and start narrowing down things so you know better in the future. Ask your server or bartender what they think of the wine and listen for the descriptives; it might help you identify what you like or dislike about the wine.
Wine I would buy cases of to store for later use: I would love to buy a case of Stella Grey 2009 and a case of St. Francis Red 2006. Both are Meritage blends and both have great places to go yet. The St. Francis for about another eight years and the Stella Grey for ten or so.
Roo’s wine recommendations for Spree's summertime Mediterranean party: A slightly dry Provence Rosé, a Vinho Verde from Portugal, or a Montepulciano D’Abruzzi—I recommend Sciarpa.