Five Questions with Andy Newlin, one of the most hilarious and intelligent wine buyers in the city. And if you haven’t been to Raoul’s, what’s wrong with you?
Andrew Newlin grew up in Delaware the fourth of five boys, got a BFA in dramatic arts, and then moved to NYC in 2000. After an internship at Food and Wine Magazine, he worked at Balthazar, going in on days off to hang out with Wine Director Chris Goodhart and do odd jobs. Andrew then spent 10 years at Per Se, working for 6 years on the Sommelier team under Michel Couvreux. Andrew is now the GM and Wine Director of Raoul’s and lives on the UWS with his wife and two children.
Which wine (or wines) do you believe in that your colleagues in the industry disagree with you on?
I would say that there are those in the industry who for whatever reason look down a delicious and classic California Chardonnay. I love that big and ripe, tropical flavor. I do think that it must be balanced out. But I hate it when you get a California wine that feels like they are fighting nature and picking too early to make it into something it is not.
What is the difference between a Wine Director and a Sommelier?
A Sommelier is someone who works the floor and should be great at listing and selling. They may or may not have hand in ordering the wines and some of the beverages. They are usually in the tip pool and have a lot of guest contact. It is rare that a Sommelier will have a team working for him or her. If so, she would be the Head Sommelier.
I think a Beverage Director is a bit more of an administrative position with a closer relationship to the owner or the GM. They have a firmer grasp on the numbers of the business and should be skilled at delegating. A great beverage director knows how to make a wine list that is interesting, compelling and can be navigated by the guests without the need of too much help from the staff. There shouldn’t be pit falls and everything should taste good.
If you could ask one question of other Wine Directors in the city, what would it be?
I am always curious how people set their mark-ups. I think it can tell you a lot about the business. How did they get to this number? And what does it say about the management of the business? A low cost of goods is great, but I don’t love ripping people off. It is a balance.
“ ...I hate it when you get a California wine that feels like they are fighting nature and picking too early to make it into something it is not.
Which trend or trends do you wish would go away?
A natural wine is not good just because it is natural. I like wines that are clean and pure with a sense of place. When all you taste is the style, it could be anything.
What do you want people to know about your beverage program at Raoul’s?
We try to be dynamic. You can get very involved wine experience; we have some very cool things here, or you can just have a casual glass. What is most important to us is that you have a good time. That being said, you should try the DRC. It’s delicious.
Bonus: What is the most underrated wine or area, and what is the most overrated?
Overrated: Clos Rougeard and Dagueneau are two that come to mind. They can be great, but I have a hard time with all of the hype. I also don’t get the love for Chateau Musar.
Underrated: Bandol Reds!
*Note: All answers are spell-checked and posted without cuts.