The Beverage NeTwork:
is a favorite current pairing from your
menu and list?
My current fa-
vorite pairing is Nino Barraco Grillo from
Sicily paired with Dayboat Scallops with
Farro and Spring Peas. It’s a rich wine but
it has great acid, and is kind of lactic in
texture so it plays well with scallops; there
is a briny component that helps as well.
Do you do special wine promo-
tions on a regular basis?
I do a rosé grab bag—$25 for what-
ever rosé I have in house. I always have
some stuff just lying around that I like.
Do you have a go-to wine region
to complement The Red Hen’s menu?
Piedmont is a good place only be-
cause the wines tend to be higher acid
and lighter. But for me I haven’t stopped
pushing Frank Cornelissen’s Contadino
#9. It’s a Nerello-Mascalese blend from
Mt. Etna that’s completely natural, un-
fined and unfiltered. It’s like berry jam with
loads of acid due to volcanic soils and
the stuff cries for food. Super versatile,
and so much fun to give to people just
entering the wine world.
What has done especially well
for you by the glass?
Pechenino Dolcetto. Those guys treat
Dolcetto like Scavino treats Nebbiolo, so
its not your typical boring Dolcetto. It’s
meaty and spicy and one of the most truly
“medium” bodied wines I’ve ever had. For
white, I’ve started pouring orange wines
by the glass and the Denavolo Malvasia-
Marsanne blend flies here. Real weird
stuff—it drinks like a Basque cider, but I
love it! And so do 75% of the people who
try it. The other 25, well….
What software system do you
use to manage your list/inventory?
Word/Excel. I keep it simple.
How many distributors do you
do business with?
I work with about 10 now. I had
at least 20 when I was at Proof and I
couldn’t keep up. Simplicity is the key to
Do you have a system/routine
for managing your wine orders?
I’m not a systems person. My brain
doesn’t work that way. I wish it did. I place
most orders on Sunday nights for Tues-
day delivery, then Thursday for Friday. I
do it via text or email.
What are some recent trends
you have noticed, both in wine in
general and at The Red Hen?
Last year when I was at Proof people
couldn’t get enough Malbec… sad state
of affairs. In my restaurant the trend is to
try something new. A lot of people are just
asking for a style and I try and get as close
to that as possible. That and orange wine.
What are some other wine pro-
grams that you admire?
Isa in Brooklyn; Etto and 2 Amys
here in DC.
Hatching a New Wine
Destination in DC
Sebastian Zutan, Owner/Sommelier
The Red Hen, Washington, DC
By W. R. TiSH
entered on a large wood-fired grill and energized by a focused yet dar-
ing wine list, The Red Hen in is one of the nation’s capital’s hottest new
restaurants. Adventurous diners have plenty of options on their plates
(smoked ricotta… grilled beef tongue… gnocchi with hazelnut pesto) and
wines to match, thanks to co-owner Sebastian Zutant. The Red Hen’s list is
effectively brief, at 100 wines, and appropriately stocked with Italian wines, but
at the same time it pushes even well-versed
-philes into new territory.
Italian-inspired American cuisine
using Mid-Atlantic ingredients
Selections on the wine list:
Bottles in inventory:
Price range of list:
Average bottle price:
Sweet spot on list:
Wine list strengths:
Sicilian, orange wine
Wines by the glass:
Price range by the glass:
Riedel Restaurant Series
system; “We blow through a ton of wine
and the BTG program is small enough that
we don’t hit much spoilage.”