10 Questions: Todd Lincicome

The city now boasts several experts so versed in wine they have passed a good chunk of the master sommelier exam. But for years, Lincicome studied the subject, offered recommendations and built a reputation almost without peer.

He has served as a wine director for 15 years, most of his tenure being with Al Biernat's. The cellar he built for this destination steakhouse includes bottles running into the four figure range...as well as a well-selected set of easy drinking table wines.

Drop by the restaurant and ask him a wine question. He can rattle off dissertations on just about anything related to fermented grapes. But what does he know about beer?...

1. Ever drink wine straight from the bottle?

Does that include when I was in high school and college? I'm sure when I was young I tried it one time. But, really? No.

2. What is it about wine you find so fascinating?

For me, there are a lot of things. It's a constantly changing world. The wines are different every year, so there's a lot to think about. I love the social aspect, as well: fine restaurants, five-star hotels, sipping on the patio, the vineyards...there's a lot of things I love about it.

3. But you have to work around it all the time. Does that affect your attitude?

I don't think it affects my appreciation of wine at all. There are aspects that people don't understand, though. I mean, I'm told five times a week "you have the perfect job" or "I wish I had your job." But we sell 65,000 bottles a year. I have to select the wines, buy them, count them, carry cases up and down the stairs. Like any job, there are things you love and things you don't love. I love what I do, but it can be a lot of work.

4. Everyone knows France, Napa Valley, etc. What's wrong with Virginia or Missouri wines?

There are wines produced in a lot of places and there's nothing wrong with them at all. Wine is a lot like soccer. People ask why the U.S. isn't an international soccer power. The answer is passion and tradition. The atmosphere, the feel tends to be very different in French wine country. Missouri can grow the wine, but do they have the passion? You can grow wine in Nebraska if you want. But the feel emerges over hundreds of years.

5. Why are screw tops so controversial?

They are controversial in the same way someone renovating your favorite restaurant is controversial. You were comfortable, so why change? People like what is comfortable. And, of course, there's the performance aspect. There are people who love them. But it will really take 30 to 40 years to evaluate screw tops.

6. Tell the truth--do you have boxed wine in your house?

I have a wooden crate from a chateau that once had bottles in it. But no cardboard boxes with wine inside.

7. How much wine do you drink a week?

Working or on vacation? When you're in the business, you have to learn to modulate. I get a lot of free wine. I'm invited to tastings and lunch all the time. When you're young, you think 'yeah, let me at it.' But you can't get to all of it, physically. So if I go to an event with 300 wines, I'll pick one. And I only drink wine after work a couple nights a week at home. But one vacation, I have wine for lunch, a bottle with dinner--I drink a lot more.

8. Why are big reds so popular in Dallas?

I think Dallas is a showy place. And there's nothing showier than the big reds. Part of it is the impression of big reds as manly wines. Part of it is that the Cabs are usually the first wines people understand. Then they branch out.

9. Do you have a taste for, say, Scotch?
I have a taste for Cognac, ports, dessert wines--I'm a wine guy. I appreciate the history, but I'm not personally much of a Scotch lover.

10. How about beer? What's your favorite?
I have quite a few I like. I have a favorite Mexican, a favorite Italian and a favorite Belgian. That's a challenging question. But I buy more Modelo Especial for home. That's my favorite everyday beer.

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