La Fonda Del Sol’s Nicholas Nahigian on Wine Smarts


Nicholas Nahigian, La Fonda del Sol’s wine director, wants you to like wine. A lot. But he also wants you to know a lot about it, too. So the California native has been hosting monthly wine classes, where he’s especially preached the virtues of Spanish selections. Nahigian chatted with Fork in the Road a bit about his plans for the restaurant (200 Park Avenue, 212-867-6767).

How did you get to be La Fonda Del Sol’s wine director?

I started off at La Fonda when it opened in January 2009 and started with the company in October 2008 — as internal manager and wine director. I kind of moved on to be general manager and wine director in my current role.

How did you learn about wine?

I guess you can say that I was kind of self-taught — I was raised in a family that entertained a lot, so I was raised around food and wine. Being from California, from Los Angeles, the wine country wasn’t too far away. I also lived in Marin County, in the Bay Area.

What brought you to this coast?

I was working at a restaurant in Marin County for about four years as wine director, then I got the bug to move to New York. I like that restaurants are always opening here.

What are some of your goals as wine director?

I think that staff education is really big for me. Having whatever wine on the list doesn’t really matter unless the staff kind of knows about it. You get to find out what everybody wants and that’s important, too. It’s not just about the wine. It’s also about talking to the guests and figuring out their wants. Also getting feedback from the customers. What are they saying about the lists, what kind of requests they’re making.

Anything else?

Making sure that certain things sell. People forget that we need to sell things to make money. We’re also always looking for fun, exciting things — the cutting edge.

Anything specific come to mind?

Sherry is pretty hot. There are things people have never heard of that I’d say are hot. We have some wines by the glass from Greece, and they’re wild and crazy about them.

What’s ‘out’ right now?

What’s not hot … that’s a tough question. … I’d say I try to have something on the list for everyone. I don’t know how to answer that question. I guess not changing isn’t hot. That’s why we’re always changing stuff!

Have you planned any other events?

In addition to classes, we’re thinking of doing several wine events and some dinners. One of my goals was that people felt like: “Oh, I don’t understand wine or wine pairing” and I wanted to change that. We host tastings sometimes. There, the winemakers interact with people from an informal level. You get more participation from the people in that room. The idea is to have an audience that knows a lot about wine, that really enojys wine.