Raj Parr is one busy guy. In addition to overseeing the wines for all 18 restaurants in the Mina Group, he is a partner in the wine bar RN74 in San Francisco and Seattle, and is involved in two wineries on the Central Coast.
That’s why he’s been spending more time lately in Santa Barbara than San Francisco. With winemaker Sashi Moorman, he founded Sandhi in Lompoc, which produces mostly Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills. The two just acquired the old Evening Land property there, where they’ll produce estate Pinot Noir under a new name, Domaine de la Côte. And to think that Parr originally came to this country from Calcutta, India, to study cooking at the Culinary Institute of American in New York.
What’s your favorite wine region to visit? And do you have any secret spots there? I would probably say Austria. I’ve been going there every two years since 2000 for the VieVinum International Wine Festival. I love going to all the different regions there, particularly the Wachau. I like the food, the wine, the people: It’s amazing. I love the restaurant which the wine producer Jamek has right at his winery in the heart of the Wachau.
What’s the sleeper on your list? We have a section called “Back Roads of Burgundy,” where we put the fun, interesting red Burgundies from smaller appellations. I love the little appellation Saint Aubin, where you find some of the best values in Burgundy. Pierre Yves Colin makes incredible value St. Aubin, for example.
If you could encourage every customer to buy just one bottle, what would it be? I would definitely go to cru Beaujolais — Foillard Morgon Côte de Puy. It’s incredible. It drinks well when it’s young. You can age it. One of the best values out there.
What’s the last wine that really blew you away? Last night I had just moved in. I had a few friends over and cooked dinner for them. I opened a 2001 Barolo from Bartolo Mascarello and it was just perfect. Wonderful nuances. Delicate, not heavy. Pure Nebbiolo that was still young and still has many years ahead of it.
ho else in San Francisco has a great list? For great drinking, I love the list at Nopa. It’s a concise list and focused, filled with lots of easy, fun drinking wines — and a few serious wines, too. I’ve always loved the list at the Slanted Door, because all the wines work with the food. Shelley Lindgren’s list at A-16 because it’s focused on regional southern Italian wines that match the food. Another that’s totally off the radar is the list at a Sardinian restaurant called LaCiccia. The chef-owner, Massimiliano Conti, used to be the sommelier at Acquerello and has really great Sardinian wine to go with the classic food.