Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Miami's Top Sommelier- Daniel Toral

This post was originally slated to be a three way interview with the top two sommeliers in town.  I figured that their cross examination of each other would be more informative and interesting than my direct examination. Unfortunately, the second sommelier, whose name will remain anonymous in order to protect him from the plethora of Chowfather groupies that may be so inclined to toss wine bottles, empty of course, at him on the streets.  Off the record, his name sounds like Biz Markie.  In all seriousness, he has been extremely busy opening new restaurants all over town and on the Atlantic.

Daniel is currently the chef sommelier for The Setai Miami Beach, overseeing its wine program for The Restaurant, offering authentic Asian cuisine; The Setai Grill  an American steakhouse with French flare and The Pool & Beach Bar with Mediterranean fare.  His wine list contains a selection of over 700 wine varieties and a bottle count of 4,000 plus.

Previously, he was the beverage director for Sustain restaurant, where he had a blank canvas and created his dream beverage program. He was very sad to see it close.  Prior to Sustain, he was at Fratelli Lyon, where he created an Italian spirit-driven bar program and later took over the wine program with an all-Italian wine list, focused on regional wines.

Daniel's wine pairing expertise can partly be attributed to his culinary skills.  He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked for Thomas Keller at Per Se.

Miami is fortunate to have wine experts like Daniel Toral and Biz Markie at our disposal.

My interview of Daniel-

Your long shift is done, what are you drinking?

Depends on my mood, but more than likely it is Scotch or Irish whiskey neat.
It's your day off, what are you eating and drinking?

On my dream day off, a bowl of Pho for lunch with a cold brew, followed with oysters and Champagne.

What is your current "house" wine?

Bodegas Grant, Amontillado. It’s the only thing that doesn’t go bad in my fridge, and I can swirl it around for hours. Under $10.

What is your current "house" champagne?

I don’t like to drink the same champagne over and over again, and when I buy champagne I make sure the dosage is low and acid is up the roof. Some of my favorites include Vilmart, Larmandier-Bernier, Laherte Freres, Camille Saves.

Favorite cocktail?

Tough to pick just one; if the night is starting, it’s the Bees Knees. If it’s ending, then it’s a Stinger.

Favorite bottle on your current list?

I’m going to be very sad when I see the last bottle of Antoine Jobard, Meursault-Genevrieres ’07 go away.

Best value bottle on your current list?

Kiralyudvar, Sparkling Furmint, from Tokaji, Hungary. A very expressive, floral, high acid style of sparkling wine that delivers.

Favorite BTG option on your list?

I’m in love with the Barbera d’alba from Cordero di Montezemolo, bright and juicy, it works perfectly with our menu at The Restaurant.

Least appreciated bottle on your current list?

Domaine Abbatucci “Faustine Blanc” from Corsica. It’s more difficult to get people to spend $90 on Corsican Vermentino.

Favorite dish at your current restaurant?

Our Peking Duck, served at The Restaurant, is ridiculous. Our chef that prepares this dish is from China and prepares it perfectly.  

And what are you pairing it with?

Ar.Pe.Pe, Sassella, Roche Rosso Riserva, Valtellina ’99. It’s such an elegant expression of Nebbiolo, and it really compliments the duck.

Best pour you've ever had?

I once poured a Montefalco Rosso by Paolo Bea for under $15. He is the most amazing winemaker in Umbria, making very compelling wines.

Most prized bottle in your home cellar?

’99 Giacomo Conterno Barolo, which I hid, so not to touch if for another 10 years.

Parker or Tanzer?

Neither! I dance to my own beat.

Your favorite wine resource?

Wolfe’s and Wine Watch.

Favorite wine region?

I love Burgundy, Loire, Piedmont.

Sleeper region(s) (value, unkown etc)?

I think the cat is out of the bag already, but the wines of Sicily represent amazing values.

How did you get into wine?

When I was in culinary school, I realized there might be something more than just cooking for me. But, working at Per Se pushed me to pursue wine management; working with Paul Roberts was a real inspiration.

Favorite part of your job?

Persuading guests to taste something out of their comfort zone. I also enjoy talking to and tasting with the winemakers, as I hear their stories.

Least favorite part?


What is your approach to creating a wine list?

I look for wholesome wines that are true to their characters. I look for winemakers that are passionate and follow tradition.  

Any tips for people who are inexperienced and/or intimidated by wine lists?

Ask to talk to the wine buyer. Tell them what you enjoy drinking – and the price point you are most comfortable with.  

How many legitimate corked bottles do you open during a typical week? 

Surprisingly not that many; only about 1 or 2 a week.

Thoughts on BYOWine?

I enjoy when guests bring their own bottles, but only if they are of relevance or importance, like really old or hard-to-find bottles.

Boxed wine yay or nay?

I've tried it, but I just can’t get excited with what’s inside.

Favorite Boone's Farm Flavor?

I had to Google Boone’s Farm Flavor. (I didn’t grow up in the U.S.)

Your last supper, what are you eating and drinking?

My grandma’s cooking; she is Hungarian, and there’s no food like hers. I would accompany it with white burgundy.

Wine lovers should definitely pay a visit to the Setai and enjoy Daniel's expertly curated wine list(s). He has an amazing palate and a keen eye for value. He is approachable and a wealth of wine knowledge. His expertise will elevate your meal and overall dining experience.

The Miami food and wine scene need more people like Daniel.  He is a fine wine-sommelier.

Daniel Toral
Chef Sommelier

The Setai
Miami Beach
2001 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

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