Following his February departure from Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Canlis, Seattle chef Brady Williams will open his own restaurant in the city’s White Center neighborhood Sept. 9. Called Tomo, it will feature à-la-carte weekend lunches and prix-fixe dinner menus of five courses for $68, including a vegetarian option. The cuisine echoes the ethos that Williams showcased at Canlis, emphasizing seasonality and ethically sourced ingredients to highlight the best of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
But according to wine director Andy Comer, Tomo doesn’t fall under the traditional category of fine dining. “We believe in providing an exceptional dining experience that’s free of formality,” he said. “We believe in a much more casual approach, a lighter touch. We want to be a restaurant where people from all backgrounds and from all ways of life feel comfortable.”
A $60 pairing comprises wines and other beverages such as spirits and ciders, or guests can order off the bottle list of approximately 200 wine selections. “The core philosophy here is we want to carry the wines that we love to share with our friends,” Comer said. This includes regions he’s particularly excited about like France’s Jura and both French and Spanish Catalonia.
Overall, the opening list leans toward European and American producers making fresh, balanced wines expressing a sense of place and personality. Many of the wines skew light-to-medium bodied to complement Williams’ dishes, such as Sungold tomato with cherry and verbena and lamb with fava bean and blackberry.
“Every wine we feature has been made in small quantities by dedicated, independent artisans,” Comer said, adding that all these producers share foundational values prioritizing “organically farmed grapes and an environmentally responsible approach to human intervention.” To that end, he’s hoping to break down confusion and misconceptions that have emerged around certain winemaking terms in recent years.
“One of my aims with the list was to start building connections for our guests and our community, so that wines that are made ethically and authentically and honestly are not pigeon-holed into really broad, misleading categories,” he said. “[It’s about] connecting the dots and building those bridges and getting back to the idea of wine versus the notion of all these different labels.”
Comer notes that this is just a starting point. While he’d like to develop a substantial cellar behind the scenes, he’s not planning to necessarily grow the size of the list. Rather, he’s looking to make the selections even more balanced and diverse by fleshing out sections such as Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Italy. He also hopes to further “diversify the way that wine is shared and represented,” in part by showcasing more minority and female winemakers as well as wines from underrepresented regions.—Julie Harans
Chef-restaurateur Dustin Valette and business partner Craig Ramsey opened the Matheson Sept. 2 in Healdsburg, Calif. Valette’s eponymous restaurant, located just around the corner, holds an Award of Excellence for its 130-wine list. A venture four years in the making, the Matheson is a three-level space featuring a farm-to-table restaurant with a sushi bar overseen by chef Daisuke Soma, a private mezzanine dining area and a rooftop cocktail bar called Roof 106. “I want people to experience the amazing bounty of Sonoma County, the elegance of our community and the craft of our employees and artisans,” Valette told Wine Spectator via email.
Boasting 440 selections and a 4,500-bottle inventory, wine director Jon McCarthy’s program is heavy on wines from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and other Northern California regions. This includes well-known wineries like Opus One and Turley, as well as Valette's namesake label. About 30 percent of the list highlights other regions, including Burgundy, Bordeaux and Piedmont. Among the 130-plus by-the-glass options are 88 wines on tap from the Matheson’s wine wall, including Château d’Yquem Sauternes and several sakes. “The wine program [is] designed to meet our guests where they are in their journey across a wide range of palates and experience levels,” Valette said. “We emphasize the connection we have with the local vineyards and producers that form the core of our agrotourism and culinary community.”
The Matheson’s two tasting menus are overseen by chef Matt Brimer and start at $95 for five courses, and à la carte options are also available. With a focus on seasonal produce, dishes include lamb with charred eggplant, aged Sonoma duck, Brentwood corn soup with chorizo and Bodega Bay king salmon with summer squash. “We’ve dialed in the flavor and ingredients to go well with wine,” Valette said. Led by chef Brian Best, Roof 106 is more casual and offers dishes like wood-fired flatbreads, crispy pork belly and coffee-and-spice–grilled bavette steak. Pastry chef Skyler Spitz is responsible for the Matheson’s desserts, and chef Ken Tominaga has helped oversee the sushi menu. “I love sushi and thought it was the best way to express our Pacific Ocean nearby,” said Valette.
The Matheson is housed in the former site of Snowflake Bakery, which was owned by Valette’s great-grandfather, Honoré Valette, in the 1920s (Roof 106 celebrates him with an In Honoré cocktail). Architect Cass Calder Smith lined the space’s vaulted ceilings with wood beams and decorated the mezzanine walls with photographs from photographer Andy Katz. A nod to local wine culture, there are murals of Sonoma vineyard workers by San Francisco artist Jay Mercado. And the host station is made from an Italian wine barrel given to Valette by veteran E. & J. Gallo vintner Marcello Monticelli. “It is stunning when you walk in the front door,” Valette said. “People actually stop to take it all in.”—Collin Dreizen
The team behind Award of Excellence–winning destination Bell's in Los Alamos, Calif., has a new casual bistro in Los Olivos. The husband-and-wife duo, Daisy and Greg Ryan, debuted Bar Le Côte Sept. 3 with partner Brad Mathews, who will serve as co-owner and chef. The restaurant serves fresh seafood inspired by European coasts in a wine-focused environment.
“We have been very fortunate during a very devastating time for this industry to continue to find some inspiration and growth in this business,” Greg told Wine Spectator. “We have been able to cultivate some amazing partners and talent to be able to put this together.”
The opening comes three years after the couple relocated to the Central Coast from Los Angeles to open Bell’s, where they noticed that seafood dishes were the most popular on the menu. According to the Ryans, Bar Le Côte helps address a lack of seafood restaurants in Central Coast wine country even though local mongers abound. Alongside a selection of raw shellfish and bistro classics like beef tartare, Mathews crafts dishes such as soft shell crab with avocado crème, slaw with corn and serrano pepper and whole-roasted sea bream with romesco sauce.
Emily Blackman, who helms the wine list at Bell’s, will also manage the list at Bar Le Côte. At 40 selections, with 10 available by the glass, Blackman says the list is “small but diverse” and that “focusing on regions with coastal influence, the wines are inherently delightful with seafood.”
The list will also offer a selection of private labels made in collaboration with local winemakers. “We have spent the last three years feeling like we are the winemakers’ restaurant, which has helped us build a relationship with a good amount of producers,” Greg said. “From Justin Willett at Tyler Wines, Drake Whitcraft at Whitcraft to Ernst Storm who has Storm Wines, to even the Carhartts.” These bottlings will include a Chablis-style white from Tyler, a skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc by Storm Wines and a Mourvèdre and a Cabernet Franc by Carhartt Family Wines.
While the team is still awaiting the approval of their alcohol permit, the restaurant is now open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday.—Taylor McBride
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