Ask Linda Salinas how she became such a wine guru (or wine nerd, to use her expression), and her answer is, "Actually, a few years ago I fell in love with a piece of mold." Um.... Then she explains: "I used to work for Backstreet Café just as a waiter, and Sean Beck, the sommelier there, every Friday he would do this wine class. He broke down Botrytis, which is a type of mold that grows on grapes that produces this super awesome sweet wine, and so I kind of fell in love with the science and it went from there, and I started gobbling up this knowledge, and the next thing you know it was fate."
As the acting beverage director at Hotel Icon's VOICE, Salinas is currently prepping fall wine and cocktail lists. "I'm rolling out a really cool wine list. It'll be somewhat focused on biodynamics, which is the study of the sun, the moon, the stars, just everything in alignment to grow the grape and basically to love the vine. People that do biodynamics are not playing around. They dedicate their lives, and yeah, it gets a little hokey every once in a while, but they have a true passion for their vineyards. I'm a person of passion, so I connect with that," Salinas says.
What does she look for in a wine? "It's flavor, price point and accessibility, and as far as flavor is concerned, I'm always thinking about acid, tannin, fruit, what is going to go with our cuisine. My clientele has a very sophisticated palate. Even the young kids that come in--and I don't mean kids in a derogatory way, just the younger, up-and-coming diners and food enthusiasts. If you're going to offer something to a crowd that wants to spend $65, $80 a person to have dinner, you better be on your toes," says Salinas.
As far as cocktails go, Salinas is bringing in the big guns. "Bobby Heugel [of Anvil Bar & Refuge] is going to be working on our cocktail list for the fall, so I'm going to be having a cocktail dinner with him here. I mean, not everyone likes to drink wine, and wine dinners are really fun, but they're also really expensive, so a cocktail dinner offers something where you can have dinner here and have really awesome cocktails that Bobby has to offer, and they're tailored to the food."
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Whether it's her passion or her experience as a wine rep, this is a woman who definitely knows of what she speaks. "My favorite grape is Grenache -- I think it should be the new Pinot. I absolutely 100 percent believe. I want to do a full page of, like, 'the wonders of Grenache,' or something that people can kind of reach out towards," Salinas says. "I wish I could say I had enough guff and influence to kick all Pinot Noir off my list, and that way people could try other things, but come on, I'd have an empty restaurant. It's a balance. I want to be on the cutting edge and have things that people don't have, but I don't want to get so far off that people walk in and don't get what's happening. I don't want to get lost in translation."