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Q-n-A With Sommelier Ryan Tedder

DSC07467by Steven Doyle

Last evening I caught up with sommelier Ryan Tedder at a thought provoking Italian wine tasting at Bob’s Steakhouse in Plano. I was surprised to see Tedder in the group, but the previous year’s TexSom winner is constantly improving his knowledge, along with a group of fantastic young enthusiasts and sommeliers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

I had not realy seen Tedder since he left FT33 as general manager/ sommelier, and was excited to sit down with him for a few minutes to discuss his most recent work in Dallas.        

Where have you been, brother?

I have taken a position at Grailey’s Fine Wine and Wine Cellar. I really have just taken a consultative and consumer approach to wine. I am getting to know people that love fine wine at every level, so it’s not necessarily the Beaujolais and white zinfandel collector. But I am meeting a lot of 30 and 35 year olds that are into collecting wine at a great price point.

Is that really your market segment at Grailey’s?

It’s a huge part of my segment. We have four brokers there, and everybody has their own market segment. I find myself to have a lot of young professionals with disposable incomes. They are not looking to have kids, they want to collect wine and drink wine with their friends. They treat that as a social aveue to meet new people and give themselves something fun to do. Wine tastings are in vogue, going to wine country is in vogue. It is really a lifestyle that a lot of young people want to be involved in. Work-life balance is just as important as making money.

Grailey’s is a private club in the Design District. Are there a bunch of fat cats smoking cigars there?

No, no smoking there. It is really just the pure love of wine. You have a lot of people who enjoy drinking wine. Myself included. A lot of time we do blind tasting groups. It’s like, hey let’s do white burgundy. Then you bring something like Corton-Charlemagne or Montrachet, and you are plopping down a few hundred dollars down on the table. Then you have someone bringing in an entry level Bourgogne Blanc they bought at the supermarket thinking that’s legit for a tasting. What we do at Graley’s is kind of pre-qualify people that you will be hanging out with as people who love wines like you love wine. They don’t want to talk about work, they want to talk about how great wine is and sharing the same thing.

How do we get involved with Grailey’s?

It’s a private wine club, basically. We have room for maybe ten more members. We also are active in a bit of email brokerage for people interested in wine but don’t want to leave their house. So we are turning them on to great wines in small allocations that are drinking great, regardless of scores.

You offer your members lockers, too, right?

Yes. The members have lockers that they can drink out of.  We also do off-site events where people will buy all their wines and we will come to their homes to host a tasting for their neighbors or business colleagues. We also do consulting with private cellars. We will look at the capacity, cooling requirements, budget. We back into those things based on materials.

How does this differ from what you were doing before at the restaurants?

I am not managing young people. I love the restaurant business. I love chefs and I love eating at them. You know my wife is pregnant, I am mid-thirties and I want to be in this business until I die. I am asking myself what is a feasible career trajectory, and I know wine will always be a part of who I am. But when working at a restaurant thirty percent of my day was working with wine and wine lovers. Seventy percent of my day was dealing with employees, and the facility, and everything not wine related. So now I am spending one hundred percent of my time with wine and wine relationships.

But you have a chef on premises and have food events, correct?

We do have a chef, and we plan maybe 3 to 6 events per month. Those are tasting events, and dinner events. You would bring your best [wine] and see what is the best blind [tasting]. But our chef is doing buffet-style food because our emphasis is about great wine. We have great food, but it’s not about hoity toity tweezer food. There is a good time for both of those things. It is a wine-centric concept.

We are not about drinking until 2am. Sometimes we will have a tasting and then go out to great restaurants around town with our clients.

What are some good vintages you are anticipating soon?

You know it is funny. It is really easy to bastardize wines from California, especially when we go the sommelier route. We get so Franco-pheliac to where if it is not French, or Spain, or old World then it fucking sucks. I think 2010 Napa Valley is one of the best surprises of a vintage, because it is a waterlog short vintage, but people who have managed their vineyard effectively have turned out some of the most thought provoking, highly aromatic, medium plus bodied wines that show great young and will age gracefully and beautifully. And what’s better than supporting America?

In all honesty it is easy to go where everyone is going. But as an American I feel we should support America. The 2010 Napa Valley killed. It is reasonably priced and showing much better than their European competitors.

We found out as we wrote the Q&A that the Tedder family is expecting a boy.


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