Shaun Brideau · Shy Bird

By Ellen Bhang · 02/18/2020

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: The next time you’re in Kendall Square, seat yourself on a bar stool at Shy Bird and strike up a conversation with Shaun Brideau. The service manager will tell you that he got his start pouring a beverage altogether different than wine.

“I was a barista, exposed to single origin and direct trade coffee,” he says. While working at Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, the North Shore native learned about the places where coffee is grown, and delved into the stories of farmers and roasters. He realized that themes like artisanship and a geographic sense of place also applied to wine. In 2017, he joined the wine team (at the time, headed up by former wine director Charlie Gaeta) at Branch Line in Watertown. “I started to see it all come together,” Brideau recalls. “It’s wonderful how we get jobs that change the course of our lives.”

At Shy Bird—an all-day cafe offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner—this professional gets to exercise his dual areas of expertise. In addition to overseeing the coffee program, he curates an Old World-focused wine list full of affordable bottles, carafes, and pours by the glass.

One gorgeous bottle: Brideau is delighted to uncork a 2017 Etna Rosso, made from grapes grown at the foot of Sicily’s still-active volcano Mount Etna. This soulful bottle ($49) is crafted by a mother-daughter team at Fattorie Romeo del Castello in the town of Randazzo. “Nerello mascalese tends to have a beautiful floral character as well as a red berry note,” he enthuses about the grapes. The wine is named after a parcel of land called “Allegracore,” which translates to “happy heart.”

Posh plate: The wine pairs winningly with Prime Beef Brisket drizzled with a sweet-tangy juniper sauce. Alongside, get the Garlic Bread, a toasty demi-baguette with oregano butter and fontina cheese. Brideau loves how the hearty cut of meat, pulled from the rotisserie oven, pairs with the red’s “rustic, mineral, volcanic character.” The grapes, he explains, grow in a unique microclimate created by lava flow that nearly destroyed the winemakers’ property in 1981. That lava wall traps warmth from the sun and moderates the effects of wind on the vines, resulting in a lively wine offering both ripeness and acidity. It’s perfect for resetting the palate between bites of brisket and garlicky bread.

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