Rubén Sanz Ramiro is the head sommelier at Veritas, which reopened late last year with a new chef and a 3,000-bottle-strong wine cellar. He sat down with Fork in the Road to talk vino and just what gets him revved about it. For starters, it’s in his blood …
How did you get into wine?
Wine and food have been a part of my life since I was born, really. I’m originally from Spain, Ribera del Duero, which is one of the main wine-growing regions in Spain. In fact, my grandmother had vineyards, my father was involved in working on the vineyards when he was young. It’s been a culture that has surrounded me always.
Describe the transformation at Veritas.
We have created a warmer and cozier, more friendly atmosphere. The most important change has been in the kitchen. Sam Hazen has brought a totally different philosophy of food and that is reflected in the menu that we offer. We still have one of the greatest wine collections in the country. Our list is based on affordable and approachable wines, they are expressions of where they come from and are made by extraordinary growers.
What are some of your favorite pairings on the menu?
We have a fantastic selection of wines available by the glass, which gives us the possibility to play with dishes and do pairings. We have an extraordinary dish to begin, which I love. It is the Ocean and Land: poached lobster with bone marrow and parsley salad. I love that particular dish with white Bordeaux. It has enough richness from the sauvignon blanc and is traditionally fermented in oak, [which brings] buttery elements into the wine, [without losing] acidity and minerality. They connect very, very well.
What are some of the common pairing myths that you like to dispel?
Cheese and red wine — many people think it works, but it really doesn’t work at all. Tannins clash with many of the cheeses and become metallic, and the acid doesn’t work very well with red wine. White wines with certain amounts of sugars and white wines with tremendous levels of acidity blend well with cheese. How do you select wines for your own consumption?
I look for wines that transmit energy. Wines that have a life, that’s what I’m looking for. And that’s just based in great horticulture practices. There is something very important, which is the vibrancy and the acidity in a wine. And the buffer of acidity and minerality, and that’s the key for a real wine. That’s what I’m looking for.
You always seem to have an anecdote about the winemaker. Is it important for you to meet the person who made the wine?
On most occasions, yes. I try to be close to them as much as I can. Either when they come to New York or when I travel I visit them. It’s one of the most important parts of our work as a sommelier, to meet the producers in order to understand a wine. It’s crucial.
What’s the craziest bottle on your list?
Well, the craziest I’ve opened is a 1923 Chambertin by Armand Rousseau. It has more life than me! A 90-year-old wine, it was incredible still. It was extraordinary: complex with tremendous fruit, tremendous liveliness on the palate, and very long, very soft and wonderful aromatics and flavors. That one was around $10,000.
What’s coming up at Veritas?
We’re going to start opening for lunch in February. We’re also going to start doing Magnum Mondays. We’re going to take from our collection a magnum every Monday and serve it by the glass. It’s going to be something very special. We’re also going to start doing wine dinners where we can focus on particular vintages, particular regions, and particular producers. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
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