Last month I attended the Texas/New York Gridiron wine challenge had the opportunity to sit at a table with Hunter Hammett, sommelier for the Dallas Fairmont Hotel. Surprisingly enough, our conversation shifted to wine and he told me about the Fairmont’s wine list which he had totally overhauled including a large number of Texas wines. I was intrigued, so I asked Hunter if I could spend some time with him learning more about the list.
He’s an agreeable guy and very passionate about wine, so I found myself in the totally revamped Pyramid Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont – with a tasteful local focus on Texas products and a rooftop garden. I was handed the list, which received a Wine Spectator 2010 Award of Excellence, and like a kid in the candy store, I started perusing. As Hunter hand-selected the 250 wines that are on the list, it was important find a variety of on and off “the beaten path” wines at any price that patrons would love. I especially enjoyed the Underrated Reds and Underrated Whites sections that had a number of wines I have enjoyed in small little wine bars or across the country. I never expected to see them at a restaurant in a national hotel. You’ll also find grapes you’ve probably never heard of nor had the opportunity to try like Aligoté, at least in Texas, until now.
Gruet was one of the selections on the Underrated Reds list and I mentioned that I had never tried its still wines. In short notice, I had a glass of the 06 Gruet Pinot Noir Cuvee Gilbert in hand. Hunter also had a large selection of wines that are positioned by varietal vs. region to encourage experimentation of all different types of grapes from around the world.
Of course, because this is Texas, you will find the usual big suspect Cabernets -we all know that restaurants have to carry these to please certain patrons. Also, I believe that having some of the big steakhouse wines gives people the trust factor to try other wines that may not have considered otherwise.
Wines that are sustainable, organic and environmentally farmed are given special consideration. You’ll probably see a future focus on building out the French section of the list in 2011. Hunter’s credo, like The Wine Century Club, is to broaden the wine drinking scope at every opportunity. I, for one, look forward to my trip around the world with his wine list as my guide.