Meet the Expert - Jeffrey Porter
Advanced Sommelier. Holder of Chevelier Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. 2015 Wine Enthusiast Magazine's “Top 40 under 40 Tastemaker.”
A sometime writer and full-time explorer, arbiter of Italian imports and "bev guy for Joe and Mario". That’s Bastianich and Batali if you’re wondering and Jeff is the Beverage Operations Director at Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group.
Favorite Wine Region? The Langhe, Piemonte - Italy
Favorite Wine Story? While walking the halls of VinItaly, Giuseppe Ippolitto of Du Cropio winery in Calabria hailed me to try “just one glass of wine”. Of course I said “yes” — and one glass turned into eight as with each wine he pulled out a staple of Calabrian cuisine! He started with cheese and homemade salami and ended with chili-encrusted anchovies. It reminded me why I love the Italians – there is never just one glass and there is always lots of food.
Light-Bulb Moment? I was working at Central Market in Austin, Texas as a wine specialist and saw a 1977 Mastroberardino Taurasi on the shelf. As that’s my birth year, I bought it and tried it. It took me immediately to the hills of Campania and taught me that great winemakers can create great wines even from poor vintages.
Last Meal? Perfectly cooked Texas smoked brisket with Freisa — the country bumpkin to Nebbiolo. My faves: Cavallotto and Burlotto.
Desert Island Wine? 1985 Krug Collection, out of magnum because the larger size makes for better aging…and, of course, there’s more to drink!.
If you could live anywhere in the world… The hills of the Langhe.
Bucket List? Eat sushi at the Tokyo fish market, visit Madagascar and Mongolia.
If you ruled the world, what would you do on Day 1? Access to quality food for all people.
Greatest Achievement? Finally realizing family comes first.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I’d like to be a Senator. I believe deeply in our style of democracy and I believe that day-by-day, a little bit at a time, we really can make things change for the better.
THEN Jeffrey was all set to be a doctor when a college job stacking boxes made him start to rethink his plans. The boxes contained wine, and the store was Central Market in Austin, Texas, a foodie’s and wine lover’s wonderland. Jeffrey had grown up in a house where run-of-the-mill wines were part of the family table, but it was at Central Market — while he was still a UTAUS student of nutrition — that he had his first chance to taste properly aged wines of distinction.
“The 1977 Mastroberardino Taurasi was my epiphany wine but at around the same time I sampled a Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne and that really was a ‘seeing stars’ experience,” he says. “It woke me up to the idea of wine as a career.”
Jeffrey was promoted to Wine Specialist, and his new-found appreciation for Champagne was matched by an enthusiasm for all things Italian. A Roman History class in college along with a class on Italian wines enabled him to connect the history, culture, and wine of that country “and was a lynchpin in my desire to pursue wine.”
But Jeffrey is not the kind of guy to make decisions rashly. On graduation he took two years out to teach high school science with Teach for America in Los Angeles. “I was testing the waters; I still needed to be sure that my heart was in wine,” he says.
It was. A year as a wine sales rep in San Francisco’s Bay Area and then several more as, respectively, Wine Director at St. Helena’s Tra Vigne restaurant and Beverage Director for the upscale Andronico’s markets followed. In 2009 he was tapped to be Wine Director at Hollywood’s Osteria Mozza and started his ascent in the Batali and Bastianich restaurant empire, moving to New York two years later.
NOW Jeffrey visits his beloved Italy at least three times a year, and under his guidance as Beverage Director the group has become one of the most powerful buyers of Italian wine in the United States. Based in New York, he works closely with its NYC flagship restaurants (Babbo, Lupa, and Del Posto), but manages “the wine philosophy” of its more than 20 restaurants nationwide. He makes time to find the special “wines of place” that delight our Wine Club members and might even, he hopes, motivate you to explore Piedmont and other Italian wine regions.
NEXT Jeffrey intends to write more, teach more people about Italian wine, and continue to study Italy. “It is so vast and unique,” he says. “It will be a life long pursuit.”