Welcome to The OenoFiles, where we chat with the smartest sippers of wine in the ATL. This month, we talk to Todd Martin of The Shed at Glenwood and forthcoming restaurant The Pig and The Pearl.
Todd Martin. [Photo: John Maley]
In 2008, Todd Martin and his wife Cindy Shera opened The Shed at Glenwood, bringing relaxed fine dining to a neighborhood that fell in love with their style of farm-fresh, Southern-inspired bistro food (their slider night and bottomless mimosa brunches didn't hurt). With Todd's background as a distributor, he's shaped one of our city's most value-driven wine lists—in other words, guests can try wines at The Shed that may not be so budget-friendly elsewhere.
He and Cindy have also opened a retail shop, Three Parks Wine, and are currently working with The Shed's chef Todd Richards on Atlantic Station's highly anticipated smokehouse and raw bar, The Pig and The Pearl, aiming for a winter opening. Todd took a few minutes to chat with us about his wine list philosophy and share some tips for oenophiles to use both at home and out on the town. So, read on, and maybe take a few notes for your holiday planning pleasure.
The Shed is known for its approachable mark-up on wines. Can you share about how you and Cindy developed that philosophy?
We want our guests to be able to experiment and enjoy new wines without breaking their budget in the process. Having been a distributor for many years also allows me to purchase more knowledgeably and pass that along to our guests. We are certainly not the first in the city to follow this guideline but more and more operators are now understanding the relationship between value and quality.
How will the wine list at The Pig and The Pearl influence The Shed and vice versa?
There won't be much influence between the two concepts other than value. The Pig and The Pearl will be a bit more specifically directed to smoked proteins (reds) and raw seafood (whites and sparklings) than The Shed—but our Shed menu is extremely diverse. We plan to have a total of 30 wines listed at P&P compared to over double that at The Shed.
Where do you begin when pairing wine with food?
It depends on the guest. Do they want a specific wine paired or do they want a specific dish paired? Reading into the guest's desire is crucial, but the basics apply: pairing begins with balance. If a dish is acidic, it needs something round to offset and complement that acidity. If a dish is rich, then you need a more acidic wine to balance out your palate.
Are there any ingredients that pose a particular challenge?
Asparagus is tricky, but not impossible. Pinot Blanc works well, depending on the preparation. If you've covered it in hollandaise, it gets trickier.
What's your favorite bottle on The Shed list and why?
Wow, that's a tough question. I'm fond of them all, but I think one of the most interesting wines for the value is a little Washington State Blaufrankish from Jed Steele called Blue Franc (we sell it for under $40).
Can you name the most strange/funny wine question you've ever received from a diner?
The wine world is so full of questions. People sometimes think that descriptors for wine are actually ingredients. They've asked if there's currant added to Cabernet or if creaminess in whites is caused by butter. At least they're not afraid to ask.
Have you noticed a recent trend in diners' wine selections, whether it's a certain varietal, price point, or producer?
Recently more people seem to be interested in trying varietals that they aren't as comfortable with, such as Gruner Veltliner or Dolcetto. They're always amazed that they can drink outside their normal parameters and find something new to love.
Do you remember the most expensive bottle you've ever sold?
At The Shed, the most expensive bottle we've sold is a magnum of Jordan Cabernet 2004 for $200.
Where do you think wine trends are heading next?
People are getting more and more savvy towards wines, and I think excellent, quality wines from family-driven vineyards at reasonable prices are trending positively.
How do you recommend that a beginner start learning wine?
Taste, taste, and taste—everything that they can get their hands on. Visit shops and restaurants that hold these events and learn! Scour the internet for information. There's so much out there.
How about collecting?
Always buy enough to visit at a prescribed time in the future, and then keep copious tasting notes on your thoughts and findings.
Do you have a fave budget-friendly bottle?
I am constantly presented remarkably well-made, small-production wines that are under $20. There's an Alexander Valley Cabernet from Lake Sonoma that drinks at three times its price. We also have a wonderful little Rhone Blend from Le Grand Noir that constantly impresses people. We are finished with Rose season now, but we had a Chiaretto from Zeni that was outstanding.
For folks at home, do you have an all-time favorite wine and cheese pairing?
A nice Cabernet Franc and some rich Windsor bleu cheese can be almost nirvana. That and a loaf of crusty bread and what else do you really need?
What's your favorite beverage to drink when you're not sampling wines?
What's your number one wine-rule to live by?
Drink what you love.
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