Welcome to The OenoFiles, where we chat with the smartest sippers of wine in the ATL. This month, we talk to Cate Hatch, manager and sommelier at H&F Bottle Shop.
Cate Hatch at H&F Bottle Shop. [Photo: Christopher Watkins]
Holeman & Finch Public House brought classy, ingredient-driven cocktail culture to Atlanta. Two years ago, H&F Bottle Shop brought it to your house. And to your dinner parties. Heck, even to your tailgates. At the Bottle Shop, manager and certified sommelier Cate Hatch and her expertly trained staff are prepared to help you find your favorite wine, beer, and spirits (and your new favorite wine, beer, and spirits). From the booze and tools used to make a clutch Sazerac, to a perfect Pinot, to a case of High Life ponies, they've got you covered and always have a few tricks up their sleeves to keep things interesting. They'll also learn you somethin' (from their wine club to "Tastings with Cate") because it is possible to get smarter while sipping. And we'll drink to that—let's get to learning, shall we?
How long have you been the manager at H&F Bottle Shop?
For the last ten months, since January of this year.
Does the Bottle Shop ever play a role in the beverage programs of its sister restaurants (Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House) or vice versa?
Absolutely. In order to make sure we have connectivity between entities, we conduct a lot of our tastings as a family, making the best decisions for the direction of the company. There is an incredible collaborative energy I adore here. We all share our strengths. A good deal of the wines at Holeman & Finch and Restaurant Eugene end up on the shelves of the Bottle Shop. That way, when a guest enjoys something at one of our restaurants, she or he can pick up a bottle and take it home.
Where do you begin when suggesting food and wine pairings?
With acid, spice, and body. If the dish has significant acid, you need a high-acid wine to match. Low-acid wine with high-acid food will make the wine taste flat, no matter the complexity. Also, try to match the weight of your dish. If you have a healthy cut of gamey meat, go for a robust wine, like a Northern Rhone Syrah. If you are having roasted chicken, other fowl or even fuller-bodied fish, go with a light Beaujolais.
Another easy tip, pair wines from a particular region with that region's cuisine (if it grows together, it goes together). A great example of this is the classic pairing of Muscadet and fresh oysters. There are also foods that can be paired with a great number of wines, like mushrooms. They tend to reflect the earthiness of European wines, but contrastingly complement fruity, New World wines and even make Champagne or sparkling wine sing.
Are there any types of cuisine or specific dishes that pose a challenge for wine pairing?
Yes! Spicy foods can be a challenge. If your food is spicy, you should steer toward a low-alcohol wine, perhaps with a small kiss of sugar. High-acid wine will combat a small amount of capsaicin (the spicy part of peppers), but too much heat and it will only inflame.
What's your favorite bottle in the shop right now? Why?
It's too hard to name just one— We just received a Louis-Dressner grower Champagne from Ulysse Collin, Les Pierrières Extra Brut that demonstrates the greatness that can be achieved when a Champagne farmer cares to make a beautiful wine and elevate it with bubbles. The 2005 Allexant Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru (a delicious Burgundy) is drinking so beautifully right now that we secured the entire lot. Additionally, I'm saving a limited amount of Marcel Lapierre Morgon (a Beaujolais Cru Gamay from a benchmark producer) for those who are a part of our monthly wine club through H&F Bottle Shop, Community Supported Viticulture.
Can you name the most strange/funny wine question you've ever received from a customer?
I got asked the other day to hunt down 'Mangria,' the newest project from comedian Adam Corolla. The name alone is a hoot. Sangria for men. Done. Found it.
Do you have favorite oenophile regulars?
Certainly. We have some regulars who know me from my days as a fine dining sommelier that come in for our concierge services. We also have a number of regular guests that trust us to know their likes and help them discover new gems to love. A lot of our regulars join our wine club, CSV. It is an oenophile journey of appreciation and exploration, for those who seek something special.
Have you noticed a recent trend in Atlantans' wine selections, whether it's a certain varietal, price point, or producer?
I am pleased to say that Atlantans seem to be opting for more exotic wines. One of our best sellers is a wine from Macedonia from Philippe Cambie, Tikves Barovo: so inky and not entirely unlike Rhone wines. We also have a great deal of organic and biodynamic wines, or simply natural wines, which our guests come in for more and more.
Do you remember the most expensive bottle you've ever sold?
I'm more likely to remember the personal favorites I've sold, like an amazing Txakoli rosé from the Basque in Spain or a "late harvest" Pinot Noir from Rebholz in Pfalz, Germany. It doesn't have to be the most expensive to have an impact on the consumer. However, if I had to name one, it would be the 2008 Jean Louis Chave magnum of Hermitage [$425].
Where do you think wine trends are heading next?
I see American producers using American oak on their wines instead of French oak. It is a fascinating trend that I think helps American wines develop their own identity rather than mimicking France or Italy.
I also see the American consumer enjoying more non-invasive and minimally-interventionist, natural wines. Wines that use indigenous yeasts for fermentation and lower doses of additives like sulfur during production. Wines that don't need to achieve 16% alcohol to convey depth. It's a great evolution to witness.
How do you recommend that a beginner start learning about wine?
I recommend limiting yourself to a particular place you love. Say you love Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Enjoy those wines and keep good notes until you are ready to move on. Read a lot. There is a myriad of reliable and inspiring literature out there. I also host a series of intimate and educational tastings called "Tastings with Cate," that takes place at the Chef's Table at Restaurant Eugene. We offer a smaller scope and class size to facilitate learning and retention.
How about collecting?
I was given really great advice early on that I still stick to: Buy expensive or collectible wines in moderate vintages and buy small producers that may not be as well known in great vintages.
Do you have a fave budget-friendly bottle (how much does it cost)?
I spend a good deal of time looking for exceptional value. I love the high-end part, but finding an inexpensive selection to endorse is a fun challenge. At the Bottle Shop: Domaine de la Ferrandière Viognier from Pays d'Oc, Yali Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Colonia las Liebres Bonarda from Mendoza, and Hooked Pinot Noir from Baden, Germany, all fall at $13 or under and have all been included in our 6 for $60 grab-and-go packs.
What's your favorite beverage to drink when you're not sampling wines?
My favorite drink is usually Vermouth on the rocks. Cocchi Americano and Carpano Antica, equal parts, soda, orange zest. We stock both in ample supply.
What's your number one wine-rule to live by?
Know your importers! Find a wine you love from someone who knows your likes, flip the bottle around, and read the label. Odds are you will care for other things they import. If not, you will still gain knowledge of those styles of wine. It's another great way to learn.
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