Liquid Courage

Sommelier Jason Restivo helps us shine at wine

JASON RESTIVO, owner and sommelier at Atlantic, has a no-fuss approach to drinking wine: “When you find a wine you like, rock and roll with it,” says Restivo, whose Starland neighborhood restaurant is one of the city’s best places to have a glass, “but it’s always good to find out what’s playing on the other radio stations.” 

Here, Restivo shares how he thinks the coronavirus has changed the way we drink (hint: we’re getting less fussy), what he’s excited to sip this season, and how to pick the perfect bottle at restaurants and wine shops alike. 

What are you excited to drink this season? 

I love light whites — pinot blanc, pinot gris, chenin blanc — and I also like a dry rosé. These are wines that are great without food, or if you’re having fresh summer produce, like tomatoes in olive oil. The pinot blanc and pinot gris are high in acidity, with a sweet and tart palette I think we crave in the Southeast. 

How do you think about which wines to serve when you’re playing dinner-party host, especially for larger crowds? Whenever those are allowed again… 

I pick wines based on the personalities of the people who will be attending, not necessarily on the food I’m serving. If I know nothing about the people who are coming, I’m going to have a very light, earthy pinot noir from France; I’m also going to bring in a fun and full-bodied Syrah from the Sonoma coast, chardonnay from Santa Cruz that’s not super lean or overly oaky, and a dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York. Those will give you a good range of profiles. 

What effect do you think the coronavirus has had, if any, on the way we drink wine? 

I think you’re seeing a lot more people having wine delivered to their home and an openness to wines of all styles, instead of caring about whether it’s a rosé for summer. And I think people are going to be drinking more sparkling wines because of the sensation they make us feel — our emotions and taste buds have been so limited from staying in. They’re ready to be activated. 

Navigating a long wine list a restaurant can feel overwhelming. What are the best questions to ask your sommelier? 

It’s so important as customers to know who we’re visiting at the restaurant. When I go to a place like The Grey, I see the same faces I’ve seen for six years, so that translates to a trust factor: I trust what they talk about internally for their wine program, I trust what they’re excited about, so I like to ask what they’re drinking right now — and why. 

So, what are you drinking right now — and why? 

The Arnot-Roberts rosé. It’s a dry rosé that is only available at two places in Georgia outside of Atlanta: Atlantic and Savannah Wine Cellar. It’s a little, tiny, unicorn wine, and it’s all I want to drink when it’s warm outside.

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