Stan Hilbert · Forage

By Ellen Bhang · 09/16/2019

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: Stan Hilbert admits that working in restaurants wasn’t the career path he originally envisioned.

“The plan was to become a rock star,” says the native of France. Music had always been a part of his life, and he loved being in a band. (He still sings, plays drums, and is known among friends for a mean guitar riff.)

After earning a master’s degree in American literature from Université Paris Nanterre, Hilbert—who lived briefly in the US as a youngster—moved to Boston. He landed a job as a server at L’Espalier, the now-shuttered Back Bay destination for fine French cuisine. Later, Hilbert worked for Violette Wine Imports, then as general manager and wine director at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain.

Fast forward to today, and Hilbert is owner and general manager of Forage, in the space that once housed Craigie Street Bistrot, in Cambridge. Earlier this year, Hilbert launched Satellites Imports with his brother Thomas, who resides in France. The company focuses on natural, small-production French wines. “I do ‘farm-to-table’ at Forage,” explains Hilbert. “Now I do ‘farm-to-glass,’ too.”

One gorgeous bottle: Aurélien Petit, of Le Petit Domaine in Hérault, southern France, crafted just 120 cases of a wine called “La Démesure” in 2017, made from chenin blanc grapes. (Hilbert imported 10 cases to Massachusetts—lucky us!) It’s $65 a bottle at the restaurant. Like many winegrowers intent on working naturally, Petit allows vegetation to flourish between vine rows, a practice that helps promote healthy soil teeming with microbial life. He fermented grape skins and juice together for 10 days before aging the wine in neutral oak barrels. “It has plenty of ripe apricot and white floral aromatics,” Hilbert says.

Posh plate: Brined Pork Chop with broccoli, baby potatoes, roasted peaches, pickled corn, and pork jus is a sumptuous early autumn dish. Dill and purple cayenne in the brine infuse the center-cut loin chop with herbaceous flavor and a hint of capsicum heat. “The tannins in the wine, from the skin contact and oak aging, work hand in hand with the dish,” enthuses Hilbert. “It opens up over the course of the meal. It’s awesome.”

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