Wine pros say that everyone always wonders what they like to sip at home. What pours are on their dining room tables when they’re relaxing with family and friends? We asked 10 beverage professionals around town about their favorite value reds and whites under $30. And, since they simply can’t pluck bottles from the restaurant wine cellar, we also got them to reveal where they shop. The retailers they frequent are often in their own neighborhoods, shops with knowledgeable staff who know just what these somms like.
It surprised us to learn that sommelier Theresa Paopao, of Ribelle in Brookline and Strip-T's in Watertown, shops the wine aisles at Trader Joe's. She likes a red table wine from the French South that retails for $6. "It's pretty bangin'," says Paopao. "Personally, I don't like to spend more than $15, unless I'm with company or it's my birthday."
Another somm told us that she likes to nosh on pungent treats with her pours. Off the clock, Anne Thompson, of Bergamot in Somerville and sister restaurant BISq in Inman Square, Cambridge, sips a northern Italian white with smoked oysters and tinned rich fish like sardines. "When you're the face of a wine program," she says, "you can't snack on these in public."
Almost all the pros like to cook, but few have the time. They're usually serving customers during the traditional dinner hour. Keith Harmon, of Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain, also a new father, gets into the kitchen whenever he has the chance. Roast poultry is a go-to with a lively California red. "When I go home, I'm not the wine director," he says. "I'm the guy who cooks the chicken."
General manager at The Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington
Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Reserve, Alsace 2012With its perfumed notes of lychee and almost no acidity, this Alsatian white is Braun's go-to pour when he cooks hot chicken sausage with peppers or Thai curry. "It's the perfect companion to spicy foods," he says. Around $20 at Last National Wine Co., Acton, 978-897-5511
Broc Cellars "Love Red" 2014A blend with old vine carignan and valdiguie with a splash of syrah, this California red is crafted by a Berkeley winemaker. Braun likes how this wine is made with "minimal human intervention," which allows terroir to shine through. Around $22 at Last National Wine Co.
Owner and wine director at Ceia Kitchen + Bar and Brine, in Newburyport
Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon-Milly-Lamartine "Clos du Four" 2013Batista-Caswell calls this French chardonnay "opulent" with "sweet lemon on the nose" and appetizing minerality. "You can cocktail with it while you are cooking," she says, "then serve with scallops or chicken." Around $29 at BRIX South End, Boston, 617-542-2749
Di Majo Norante "Ramitello" Molise Rosso 2011 "On a cold night, I want a big red," says Batista-Caswell of this Italian pour. She likes the "plum, cocoa, and forest floor" notes, and recommends it with earthy mushroom dishes. Around $19 at Grand Trunk Old World Market, Newburyport, 978-499-4441
Wine director at Boston Harbor Hotel at the Boston Waterfront
Domaine Chevalier Pere & Fils, Bourgogne Aligote 2012Daddona has fond memories of French aligote, which he calls "chardonnay's cousin." Last year, on his honeymoon in Paris, he sipped this wine while eating raw oysters with his bride. Around $20 at The Urban Grape, South End, Boston, 857-250-2509
Francois Villard "L'Appel des Sereines" 2013 This Northern Rhone syrah, says Daddona, offers "blackberry patch and pepper" as well as "herbs, earth, and spices" that elevate poultry, pork, or rich seafood like bluefish. Around $18 at The Urban Grape
Wine director at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square, Boston
Rietsch Sylvaner, Alsace 2014Describing this Alsatian white as "crushable and unique," Dorsey loves its floral and flint scents, plus flavors of lemon zest, green apple, and a "nice salt-washed feeling on the finish." Around $22 at Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, Cambridge, 617-225-0040
Thurnhof St. Magdalener 2014 Crafted from the vernatsch grape, this Northern Italian red suggests "slight smoke and savory notes" that Dorsey enjoys at home with three-bean chili with herb pesto. Around $17 at Central Bottle Wine + Provisions
Owner and wine director at Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe, in Jamaica Plain
Anton Bauer "Gmork" Gruner Veltliner 2014Offering apple, tart papaya, and white pepper, this Austrian white quaff has a "sense-of-place acidity," says Harmon, and a touch or residual sugar that make it great with fish, soft cheeses, and Vietnamese pho. Around $15 at Streetcar Wine & Beer, Jamaica Plain, Boston, 617-522-6416
Folk Machine "Parts & Labor" 2014This California red is a light-on-its-feet blend of four grapes — syrah, carignan, grenache, and barbera — crafted by winemaker Kenny Likitprakong from fruit at four vineyards. Harmon says it's a winner with his own fennel-and-lemon-stuffed roast chicken. Around $18 at Streetcar Wine & Beer
Beverage and wine director at La Morra in Brookline Village and Heritage of Sherborn in Sherborn
Columna Albarino 2014Keaveney loves that this sustainably farmed white from northwestern Spain is "bright and floral," offering "a certain lushness" on the finish. Appealing with sushi, ceviche, or Thai and Indian dishes. Around $15 at Heritage Fine Wine, Coffee & Provisions, Sherborn, 508-655-9521
Marchesi di Barolo "Ruvei" Barbera d'Alba 2013This expression of old vine barbera, says Keaveney, is full of "dark plum, violets, and supple oak tannins." The Italian red is delicious with lamb, beef, and mature cheeses she might serve. Around $17 at Heritage Fine Wine, Coffee & Provisions
General manager at Sycamore in Newton Centre
Marco Sara "Erre Gialla" Vino Bianco 2013Lieberman enjoys the "high-toned minerality, good acidity, and a little texture" that make this Northern Italian white excellent with lobster and hearty herb-scented vegetable dishes at home. Around $20 at The Wine Bottega, North End, Boston, 617-227-6607
Isabelle et Bruno Perraud Beaujolais Villages Nouveau, Brut de Cuve 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau, the red wine bottled in France weeks after harvest, can suffer from a poor reputation, says Lieberman, so this version from a natural winemaking team is most welcome. It's juicy with strawberry but balanced by "a nice leafy herbal quality and very quenching." Around $20 at Violette Wine Cellars, West Cambridge, 617-876-4125. (Photo shows a Perraud Beaujolais Nouveau 2014.)
Head sommelier at Bistro du Midi in Back Bay, Boston
Domaine des Baumard Savennieres 2012 This Loire chenin blanc, says Lipman, offers notes of "dried honey, quince, fresh white flowers, and strong sense of minerality," a French white that's a "fantastic foil for raw seafood." Around $22 at Gordon's Fine Wines & Liquors, Main Street location, Waltham, 781-893-1900
La Kiuva, Arnad Montjovet, Vallee d'Aosta 2013Lipman thinks this alpine-grown Italian nebbiolo blend, made in a "softer, juicy" style, with spice and smoky character, is a delightful red with charcuterie, duck, and grilled meats. Around $18 at Gordon's Fine Wines & Liquors
Beverage director at Ribelle in Washington Square, Brookline, and Strip-T's in Watertown
Weingut Aigner "Sandgrube" Grüner Veltliner 2014Paopao describes this Austrian pour as "snappy with a little bit of zip," offering "a crispness you don't find in other whites." A winner with smoked Gouda and Triscuits, she says. Around $20 at Vinodivino, Washington Square, Brookline, 617-879-9400
La Ferme Julien Vin Rouge 2014 From the Perrin family, best known for Chateauneuf-du-Pape, comes this pretty French red table wine. "This bottle gets it right," says Paopao about its red fruit profile and food-friendly acidity, delicious with meatballs in marinara. Around $6 at Trader Joe's, Coolidge Corner, Brookline, 617-278-9997
Wine director at BISq in Inman Square, Cambridge, and Bergamot in Somerville
I Clivi, Friuli Colli Orientali, Friuliano San Pietro 2013Thompson loves this Italian white for its yeasty scents and a "mineral-driven" palate with "searing acidity." Wonderful with smoked oysters and rich tinned fish at her own table. Around $22 at The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463
Pacina "Il Secondo" Toscana 2013 The pure fruit flavors of this Italian sangiovese red are not masked by oak, says Thompson, who likes how the acidity of this Tuscan pour "lifts the palate." Around $22 at Violette Wine Cellars