Best of the Wine List: Four Seasons Hotel New York
Sommelier Lacey Rozinsky shares her top vintages and her most memorable wine-guest experience.
The list of libations available at Four Seasons Hotel New York—home to a wine cellar of close to 700 labels—might seem intimidating if not for the helpful presence of sommelier Lacey Rozinsky. Natalie MacLean talks to the Brooklyn-bred oenophile about her role at the Hotel’s lounges and Garden restaurant and how wine won her heart.
How did you become a sommelier?
While putting myself through school, I worked in restaurants with a strong focus on wine and wine service. We’d taste wine every day and have wine classes once a week. This sparked my interest, so on my days off, I’d research what I was tasting as well as try new wines. I was hooked!
What was the first great wine you ever had?
The 1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo from northern Italy—gorgeous aromas of cooking spices, dried cherries and rose petals. Perfection. On the nose, it was everything I could want, like a perfume I could wear every day.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing now?
I’d be a fromagier, because I am obsessed with cheese. There are so many wine-and-cheese pairings that it’s hard to choose one above all—that’s like asking a mother to choose a favourite child. If I had to, though, I would pair ricotta fresco, a mild, fresh curd cheese (topped with lavender honey) with a Condrieu, a Rhône Valley white made from the Viognier grape.
Was wine part of your family table growing up?
Not at all. I grew up in Brooklyn, and my family didn’t drink much alcohol—except for my grandmother, who brought out some terrible wine for the Jewish holidays. I didn’t discover wine until I started to work in restaurants. I actually introduced my family to wine, and now they love it.
What part of your job do you love best?
I get to taste great wines all the time. I recently opened a bottle of 1928 Haut-Brion, one of the five Bordeaux First Growths, for a couple. It helped to make their evening memorable. Does it get better than that?
Which wines are popular with your guests right now?
My guests order a lot of Burgundy, mostly because it goes with the dishes that we offer, such as free-range quail stuffed with foie gras and served with potato purée; Gruyère cheese soufflé with fresh seasonal morel mushrooms and green asparagus; and sake-marinated, miso-glazed black cod in a daikon and yuzu broth. Burgundy, made from the Pinot Noir grape, is an elegant wine with a fine balance between aromas of fruit and earth. It also has a higher acidity than many other red wines, which makes for a great food wine: It will never overpower a delicate dish, yet can match the flavours in a heartier one. Some of the more popular bottles on our list include Sylvain Cathiard Chambolle-Musigny 2009 1er Cru Les Clos de l’Orme, Domaine Armand Rousseau 2007 Clos de la Roche and Domaine Méo-Camuzet 2006 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brûlées.
Tell us about two unusual wines on your list.
The Cavallotto Pinot Bianco is very special because it’s a Pinot Noir vinified as a white wine. It has a lovely straw colour and soft aromas of pineapple and a slight hint of star anise. It’s a fantastically clean, fresh wine with good acidity on the palate leading to a creamy, ripe-kiwi-fruit finish. I love pairing it with the hamachi sashimi with minted guacamole in a citrus honey dressing on our menu.
I also have the Scholium Project Cena Trimalchionis, a dry Sauvignon Blanc that’s been affected by botrytis, the noble rot that creates the sweet Bordeaux wine, Sauternes. The nose is insane: dried fig, lychee, white peaches, honeycomb, petroleum, musk and a nuttiness that blows my mind. It pairs well with a washed-rind cheese like Taleggio.
What’s your favourite wine-and-food pairing, and why?
Champagne goes with everything from french fries to caviar. I also love drinking Burgundy with duck. The gaminess of the meat goes so well with the fruit-forward nose.
How do you pick a wine for guests when he’s having steak and she’s having a delicate fish?
Always pair the wine with the lighter of the two dishes. You could choose a flavourful white such as Merry Edwards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley, which won’t overpower the fish but which has sufficient crisp acidity to cut through the fattiness in the meat.
What’s your desert island wine?
Since it would be hot, I’d need something refreshing and delicious: Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Champagne, named in honour of the former British prime minister who loved this bubbly. It’s flavourful, yet so delicate.
Tell me about your favourite wine-guest experience.
I’ve had guests ask me to pick a wine for them without knowing anything about them—whether they preferred white or red, what they planned to order, how much they wanted to spend. So I’ve picked a wine and poured it blind for them, meaning they couldn’t see what it was, then we talked about it, and finally I revealed it. I love doing that—it makes wine what it is, an adventure.
Look for Lacey Rozinsky’s Wine Wednesdays video series on the Four Seasons YouTube channel.
Natalie MacLean offers more wine picks and pairings at www.nataliemaclean.com. Her latest book, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines (Penguin USA), is now available in paperback.