~ Dom, and his love for wine and Pittsburgh. ~
One of the best parts of our job is constantly reading and researching great drinking establishments across the U.S. Pittsburgh is often overlooked compared to the large markets, but if you pay close attention you'll see that the city has a lot to offer that competes with any other city. One of those places that has creeped across our "to visit" list frequently is Bar Marco. We reached out to the Head Sommelier, Dominic "Dom" Fiore, to quiz him more on his love for his job, the city he has landed in, and his loyalty to the Cleveland Browns.
- The LAB team
Left: Image from Pittsburghinpictures Instagram feed. Right: Bar Marco.
The LAB: What do you enjoy the most about living in Pittsburgh, and what changes in the last few years are you the happiest about?
Dom: Pittsburgh is currently a hotbed of people that are genuinely invested and motivated in being a part of a time and place where they feel they are genuinely making a difference in their respective fields. The dining scene is an integral part of this, but every profession in the city right now has such a high potential for growth that it is only human nature that we are all pushing each other to be great. It is a very exciting time to be in Pittsburgh, from the technology field to the arts, and it hasn't happened by accident. It was only a matter of time before the people here realized that we were on the cusp of doing something special. I would have to say what I love most about living here is that everyone has the mindset to all work together for Pittsburgh, and everyone benefits. I am a relative newcomer to Pittsburgh, as I have only been living here for 2 years now, by way of Ohio and New York City. But, in the 2 years I have been here, the biggest change has been the absolute explosion in number of quality places to have wonderful dining experiences. The fact that the public has been so responsive to trying new things is infectious. The national praise for the restaurant scene is humbling, yet well-deserved.
The LAB: Where do you think industry writers are getting it wrong when it comes to natural wine, and how can they better listen to sommeliers?
Dom: I would preface this by saying that, in my opinion, the wine media has a lot to do with the recent boom in popularity of natural wine. For the most part, everything written on the subject has been positive in the praising of hands-off and additive free approach to winemaking. If I had to pick one thing the wine writers may be getting wrong is painting the picture of natural wine as a "hipster" culture. I hate that word tied to anything in the world of wine, and I feel that there definitely is some hipster-ish connotation when you start talking about natural wine. The truth is that these wines are extremely small production and there just isn't as much to go around as more familiar wines. It is an enormous misconception that there is anything hipster about them. In fact it is quite the opposite. The more you talk to natural winemakers, the more you realize that all they want to do is share what they do with you. Not an ounce of pretense or exclusivity. That's part of the magic about it and what really gets people excited about it. Terroir is the most important, and intriguing part about appreciating and understanding great wine, and the fact that these wines are made by just letting nature show you what it has to offer, I don't think there is a more pure expression of a wine's terroir than what you find with wines made naturally.
The LAB: Totally agree, and good insight on this topic. The term "hipster" seems to be nasty for all segments of the craft beverage industry. Well stated, Dom!
The LAB: If an actor played you in a romantic comedy film based on Pittsburgh's food scene who would you want that actor to be?
Dom: Awesome question. It would have to be someone with an unnecessary amount of energy who gets really excited easily. I would probably pick Neil Patrick Harris. I talk really fast and use my hands a lot at the restaurant, especially when I'm talking about wine. Either him or Wesley Snipes.
The LAB: If you and a small group of friends are drinking wine together, what is your perfect setting for pairing of bottles and genre of music?
Dom: Music and wine are a perfect pairing. My favorite time of year is the summer. Warm weather and sunshine. Nothing is better when its 100º outside than high-acid German Riesling. Preferably anything from Peter Lauer in the Saar. Riesling and reggae, has a nice ring to it.
Image from Finger Lakes Wine Country.
The LAB: In your opinion what is the most underrated wine region currently?
Dom: Right now I would say the most underrated wine region would have to be the Finger Lakes in New York. Even though NY is the 2nd largest producer of wine in the country, it often gets overlooked and can be assumed as only making one-dimensional wines. It is quite the opposite, especially in the natural wine world. Unbelievable specific expression of terroir and finesse from many producers. One winery in specific that stands out to me is Bloomer Creek. They make only natural-ferment, additive free deliciousness. If you get the chance to try anything from them, do not pass it up.
The LAB: I need to get up there something terrible. I left NY in '04, and have only gotten back to the city once, and yet to get back Upstate.
The LAB: What is your favorite article of clothing to wear on the job, and where do you like to shop for that piece?
Dom: I love to wear self-tie bow ties. I have somewhere around 30 different ones. I wish you saw more of the self-tie ones, and not the already pre-tied, essentially clip-on types in stores. I tend just to go online to tietiebar.com. They have lots of different patterns and shapes.
The LAB: I too love a good self-tie bow tie, but have only 3 to choose from in my closet. This is a recent thing for me, and I remember how long it took my wife and I to get the routine down after numerous YouTube videos.
The LAB: Best sport to drink wine to, whether watching or playing?
Dom: I am a sports fanatic, specifically football, but unfortunately I am a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, which means any wines I drink during games tend to not show as well when we always lose. We have a bocce court at the restaurant, and it gets a lot of use. Bocce and Pet-Nat bubbles are a spectacular pairing. Anything outside with Pet-Nat is wonderful for that matter. And yes, I consider bocce a sport.
The LAB: Your favorite city to eat and drink in is...?
Dom: My favorite city to eat and drink would have to be New York City. I lived there for 8 years before moving to Pittsburgh, and in my opinion there's no better city to dine. Just from the sheer number and variety of restaurants to the quality, I feel it is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Great stuff, Dom, and looking forward to visiting Pittsburgh soon. For those passing through soon, I highly recommend seeking at Bar Marco, grabbing a bottle (or several) with dinner, and asking for Dom. Cheers ~ Jason