Robert Taylor · Benedetto
Stan Hilbert · Forage
Alexandra Hayden · Fox & the Knife
Curious about restaurant wine lists? Each month, Boston Globe wine columnist Ellen Bhang chats with a sommelier about a terrific bottle and recommends a food pairing—you come away a savvier sipper.
Meet the beverage pro: Robert Taylor doesn’t take for granted how special it is to dine at the tables of winemakers. Fresh on the heels of a recent trip to southern Italy with Mucci Imports, the general manager and wine director of Benedetto is still glowing. He recounts multiple occasions where he and his fellow travelers sat down to meals lovingly prepared by the families who made the wine.
“It was rustic and memorable,” Taylor recalls, clearly touched by his hosts’ generosity. As someone with Italian ancestry—his great-grandparents on his mother’s side hail from a village near Avellino, in Campania—he understands how central food and wine are to the culture. “It’s what you eat, and what you drink, but it’s also who you’re eating and drinking with,” he muses.
Those unrushed repasts—where Taylor was a virtual stranger but fed like family—prompted him to reflect on what it’s like for guests to dine at Benedetto. “We want to give them a memorable experience, as if they’re visiting our home,” he says.
One gorgeous bottle: One place where Taylor experienced fervent hospitality was at an osteria situated in the rugged hills above the Amalfi Coast belonging to winemaking brothers Gigino and Gaetano Reale. Brother “Gigi” cooked while Gaetano (who normally tends the family vines) served. At Benedetto, Taylor is now pouring one of their wines, a 2018 Reale “Aliseo” ($60 a bottle, $15 by the glass). “I love the richness of falanghina,” Taylor enthuses, referring to one of the primary white grapes in the blend. “[The wine] has opulent aromatics, beautiful herb notes, and structure. You can taste the salty sea air.”
Posh plate: Michael Pagliarini (also the chef-owner of sister restaurant Giulia) is serving up East Coast Halibut all’ Acqua Pazza. The sturdy white fish is seared then poached in a tomato-mushroom broth. The fillet is presented alongside a sweet Jimmy Nardello pepper stuffed with finely minced sautéed mushrooms. The wine’s texture, acidity, and salinity enliven the land-and-sea goodness of the dish. Taylor loves how the wine communicates “dynamism and honesty”—exactly the kind he and his compatriots sipped around the winemakers’ table.