Welcome to Eater Atlanta's newest feature, The OenoFiles, where we chat with the smartest sippers of wine in the ATL. Today we hear from Matt Bradford, wine director at Canoe, one of Atlanta's prettiest spots to relax with a glass of vino. Not only does Bradford have the lovely Chattahoochee River to inspire him, but also a whimsical menu full of local faves courtesy of Chef Carvel Grant Gould (killer brunch, fresh fish, and a certain duck 'n' beef burger come to mind).
He's curated a list of more than 500 wine selections, over 25 of those available by the glass. That last part means you can try more wines by the glass at Canoe than just about anywhere in Atlanta. And the part where Canoe's won Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence since 2009 and Bradford's completed both the Advanced Certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers and gotten his diploma with The Wine and Spirits Education Trust means you're in good hands. Hands that will pour you some delicious, delicious wine that pairs with anything on the menu—popcorn ice cream sundae, anyone?
How long have you been directing the wine program at Canoe?
Since the summer of 2006, coming up on eight years.
Where do you begin when pairing wine with chef Carvel Grant Gould's dishes? Are there any ingredients that pose a particular challenge?
Carvel's menu always has a great range of dishes. She tends to have a delicate style throughout her menu that leans towards lighter, more classic wines. I like to utilize more French and Italian wines that depend more upon their structure rather than on too much fruit.
What's your favorite bottle on the list right now?
Lucien Lemoine Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2010.
Tell us about Canoe's recently launched wine-tasting education dinners.
This is in direct response to people asking for something like this [wine education dinners]. It's a lot of work, but I think people will get a lot out of it. So far, the response has been great. Several people have attended more than one.
Can you name the most strange/funny wine question you've ever received from a diner?
Most of the "difficult" wine questions that we receive are because people don't know how to talk about wine. We get a lot of requests for a sweet red wine that normally means a fruity red wine. Occasionally someone brings in a bottle of wine for corkage that costs less than the corkage fee. It's pretty awkward to charge $15 to open a $7 bottle of wine.
Do you have favorite oenophile customers?
Absolutely. A lot of our guests are extremely knowledgeable about wine. My favorites know a lot about wine and have a lot and are humble about it, too. Rather than a pissing contest they just want to enjoy wine.
Have you noticed a recent trend in diners' wine selections, whether it's a certain varietal, price point, or producer?
People are more adventurous with wine. We sell a lot more wine from outside of the United States. Argentina, France, and Italy are popular.
Do you remember the most expensive bottle you've ever sold?
We special-ordered a bottle of 2005 Mouton Rothschild for a gentleman one night. We sold it for $1,800. We don't normally have wines that price too much above $1,000. It just isn't what we offer because those wines tie up too much money in inventory.
Where do you think wine trends are heading next?
We seem to have moved out of the "organic for the purpose of being organic" phase. I think that wines of restraint are trending now and next. Lower alcohol, higher acidity. Balance.
How do you recommend that a beginner start learning wine? How about collecting?
You have to drink wine in order to learn about it. Pay attention to what you drink. A lot of people can't tell you the wine that they had last night. What year is the wine you are drinking and what difference does that make? How does it taste different than the last time you drank it? Why?
Do you have a fave budget-friendly bottle?
I look for Italian whites for value. Pio Cesare Gavi [approx. $21.99] and Pieropan Soave [$6.99 - $16.99] are great. For reds I like Spain.
What's your favorite beverage to drink when you're not sampling wines?
I drink beer. I prefer pilsner over beers that are too hoppy or malty. I drink cocktails at home, too, I make one cocktail then move on to another after a while. I don't have a huge bar to make drinks from, so it's a little limiting. I mostly drink wine.
What's your number one wine-rule to live by?
Have an open mind. I think people pick a certain wine and decide that it's their favorite. I believe that different wines are for different times. Winter reds are not the same as summer reds. Sometimes you have to spend some money to understand what the fuss is about.
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Matt Bradford at Canoe. [Photo: Alex Lassiter]