Rosé may be on everyone’s minds (and menus) these days, but there’s another, lesser-known wine that Washington’s top sommeliers are emphasizing this month: Gamay.
“It often plays second fiddle to pinot noir, but it’s fruitier, more floral, more fun,” says Max Kuller, beverage director at Proof, Estadio, and Doi Moi. “It’s a great wine for this time of year when it’s getting warmer, and you still want a glass of red wine.”
Kuller is drawn to Gamay for more than just its easy-drinking qualities. His father, Washington restaurateur Mark Kuller, passed away three years ago from pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed far too late. When looking for a way to honor his memory and raise money for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, Max landed on Burgundy’s under-the-radar varietal.
“It’s grape that needs to be more known and a disease that needs to be more known,” says Kuller, who’s helped raise around $35,000 for the Lustgarten Foundation over the past two GaMay promotions.
Glass and bottle specials run by Kuller’s restaurants, as well as Tail Up Goat, the Riggsby, Momofuku CCDC, and others help the cause. Participants are donating up to 50 percent of sales for pancreatic cancer research, while highlighting Gamay’s versatility and food-friendliness.
“Like pinot noir, it’s the wine you use when in doubt of a pairing,” says Kuller. The wine’s lower-profile also means it can be a better deal than those pricey pinots, with what Kuller says are “terrific bottles” retailing as low as $15. There’s even an incentive for cocktail drinkers: frosé slushies at 2 Birds 1 Stone, a blend of Gamay rosé, rosé vermouth, strawberry, lemon, and mint are $9 all month.
“My dad loved wine so much as a way to celebrate the joy of life and make the most of it,” says Kuller. “Gamay always reminds us of that celebration.”