The Mark Wine News Winter '18 Volume 8.1 - Page 16

r a i s e a g l a s s The Incredible Journey D arden R estaurants ’ B rian P hillips W hen you’ve got The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s, Seasons 52 and more on your business card, chances are there are a lot of people trying to get a seat across from your desk. And that’s pretty much the case for Brian Phillips, Director of Wine Strategy for the Darden family of restaurants. Of course working for a company that features some of the most recognizable names in the restaurant industry is kind of a big deal. Darden employs over 165,000 people in more than 1600 restaurants and serves some 380 million guests across North America. We talked with Brian Phillips about his life, the wine program he oversees and a grape he would like everyone to try; Blaufränkisch. MWG: I read that you actually fell for wine after spending a month at a medieval German castle while you were in college and that when you got back to school you changed your major from Journalism to Hotel and Restaurant Management. What a great story! And we’re thinking your affinity for Riesling started then? BP: I love Riesling. What I love it most with is spicy Asian food (mainly Thai) with an off-dry Riesling, (mainly German). Hands down, my favorite go-to pairing. I love spicy heat and then moderating it with a lean but slightly sweet wine. I can’t get enough of this contrasting pairing. MWG: Agreed. Thai food and Riesling rocks. Was your German castle experience your first entrée into wine? BP: Beringer White Zinfandel was the only wine consumed regularly in my home back in Chicago, where I grew up. But I remember vividly a dinner with my dad at Gene & Georgetti’s when I was about eight. I learned my first lesson about hospitality and I got to try a bit of good wine for once. Gene, the owner, greeted us by name at the front door. That’s when I learned it’s always about the guests first. The wine was an old school Chianti, not the fiasco wrapped 14 type. MWG: What a wonderful memory. Like you, I have a beautiful memory of a dinner in Washington DC with my parents when I was 9 or 10. It was a Bordeaux that melted in my mouth with every bite of my steak. I have tried hard to pass down my love and appreciation of good wine to my kids too. Have you passed down “the” wine experience to your daughter? BP: My five-year old daughter is definitely getting exposed to great and classic wines yes. I wonder if this will encourage her down a path or discourage her away from wine? MWG: The quintessential question. Of course the real crux of wine and wine experiences are the stories and the rare finds. I am always in awe of great wine tales and tastings. Do you have any to share? BP: I was fortunate enough to host a vertical tasting of wines from the infamous and charismatic producer, Serge Hochar of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar. I remember several sommeliers tear up over his 1958 white wine, something about the day and that moment really spoke to the wine and visa versa; it’s hard to explain. MWG: I total 䁝Ёи$ͥȁɥݡ)MɝѼ!݅ѼЁٕѥхѥ)Q!5I,]%99]