Going 10 Rounds With Roni Ginach
The sommelier of legendary restaurant Michael’s Santa Monica tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “If I’m going out, a bourbon Manhattan on the rocks. At home, whatever sample I have open from the day—fingers crossed it’s a lightish red or a textured white. Last night it was Envinate’s 2015 Albahra and it was heaven.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “Patsy Cline ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky.’”
Name the first good wine you ever drank and where you had it. “Roman’s in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Its window seat was a formative place for me in tasting and drinking wine. Another [special spot] was a restaurant in Berlin called Muret et La Barba (now closed) where I used to go a few times a week when I lived there. I drank a wine from Marco Carpineti called Capolemole Bianco every time I went—I think they kept it stocked on their shelves specifically for me and my friends.”
What book on wine, cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “History in a Glass edited by Ruth Reichl. Reading it is like visiting an old friend.”
Name the wine region that took you the longest to truly understand. “I feel like I will never truly understand any region and that’s what keeps me going. But I’m continuously shocked and awed by the breadth and diversity of wines coming out of California and I live here! I just started working with a producer based in Humboldt County and, though I’ve worked with many wines from this area before, I have a feeling that there is a lot deeper we can dig. My current mission is to figure out what the Californian identity in winemaking is, if there can be such a thing, and try to find producers that embody that vision or have the potential to.”
What’s your favorite wine and food pairing? “Bread, olive oil, [Michael’s Santa Monica’s chef] Miles Thompson’s lettuce and seed salad and La Stoppa’s 2010 Ageno.”
Ever appropriate to sip white wine at room temperature? “For sure—every wine has its own language and some are best communicated without a chill.”
What’s your favorite bottle of wine under $20? “I could drink Giulio Armani’s Dinavolino until the cows come home. I also love anything from Elian Da Ros in the Côtes du Marmandais, and, as the region is relatively unknown except for this producer, the wines are still shockingly affordable for the delivery. They make me feel like I’m at a medieval feast.”
What’s your favorite bottle of wine over $1,000? “Around that range (it’s rare for me as I’m a lady of the people), the 2005 Domaine d’Auvenay Bourgogne-Aligoté Sous Chatelet knocks my socks off. The biggest deal wine I enjoyed most recently was the 1990 Montrose generously shared with myself and Tony Coturri by Lewis Dickson of La Cruz de Comal—the only natural winemaker in the Texas Hill Country and a brilliant friend.”
What tool do you use to open a bottle? “A basic wine key fits best in my pocket and feels good in my hand. It’s the most important object in my life because I use it all the time, so it has to feel exactly right. My mother recently sent me a wine key shaped like a parrot from the MoMA design store marketed as ‘every sommelier’s favorite tool’—I was hoping it would be the one but sadly it’s a nightmare.”
Roni Ginach is the sommelier of Michael’s Santa Monica, the 38-year-old Westside restaurant.
Interview has been condensed and edited.