Water for Chefs—David McMillan, Joe Beef
Yeah, baby. You knew this one was coming.
July 27, 2016 ● 4 min read
Chef David McMillan needs no introduction, but let's give him one anyway. Joe Beef, Liverpool House, Le Vin Papillon. Foie gras, ice fishing, all of the offal. Taxidermy, tattoos, whole pig heads. Oysters. Burgundy. Game fowl. Cheese for days. Deep Québécois pride.
This guy. This guy is everyone’s Chef. Lucky for us, this guy also loves wine. This guy loves love. “Drink healthy beverages made from grapes,” he says. “Eat clean. Love everyone. Be a good person. Fight pedigree and pretense. We love you."
1. Would you call yourself a wine drinker? What does that mean to you?
I love the wine. A lot. Wine has been an important driving force behind our food, and the restaurants are built to sell wine. Our mission is to sell wine accompanied by delicious simple food. Wine is the focus and the star – get wine on the table.
2. Paint the whole picture of your bangin'-est wine experience REAL or IMAGINED.
Quebec has the best wine drinking clientele in North America; natural wine made inroads to Quebec over 20 years ago with visionary wine agencies like Rezin. I often say that outside of the cult natural wine bistros of Paris, Quebec has really nurtured a natural wine public – it’s apparent in most good restaurants in the city centers.
When I travel in other parts of North America I can't wait to get home to drink real wine. It's amazing how many chefs out there who spend so much time sourcing and cooking food from small farms and doing incredible work in the kitchen pay no attention to wine or have heavy-handed somm glee club wine lists made of obvious, big-name processed wine. Chateau Whatever. Any Montreal wine bar is my favorite place to be et on parle français ici et les filles sont belles (they speak French here and the girls are beautiful).
3. Bubbles or Burgundy?
Both go hand-in-hand, but the first glass of the day must always be bubbles. It's just how it should be, no? Oh, and the last glass, too. Lassaigne, Laval, Bereche, Courtin, Pouillon, Savart, Vilmart… to name a few.
4. Have you experienced a wine pairing that you felt truly elevated your food?
Yes, I have – but I don't care. I am a sommelier’s worst nightmare. I despise being guided into food and wine pairings. I drink wine for joy, romance, fun… the art of storytelling. Argument. If I feel like eating cold roast beef remoulade and drinking orange wine, I will. If I want to switch to red Meursault and back to Labet Jura, I will. And then, if I want to open a Hill Farmstead Dorothy and when the fish arrives I want to drink Lafarge Volnay, I will – and then I’ll switch again. It's how we learn. Trial and error. Be merry. Crush pretense. Do what you want. Drink how you feel.
5. What makes you like a wine?
I like wine if I can send an email or call the winemaker on the phone. I like a wine from a winemaker who works in his winery like I work in my restaurant. I like a wine that admonishes pretense or pedigree. I like a wine that comes from a magical natural garden where herbicides and pesticides are not used; I like a wine that doesn't give me a headache. I like a wine that’s a common-sense price. I like a wine that I feel a Roman/French/Italian peasant would have drunk. Simple. Healthful, restrained. Craft.
6. What makes you not like a wine?
I dislike dirty work. Sloppy work. Brett can be ok, but sometimes it's not right. Flaws are maddening. If it doesn't taste or smell delicious it's simply not delicious. Some will intellectualize flaws — that's wrong. If it tastes bad and smells bad, it's bad. And I won't start on sunshine/high alcohol/added sugar/sweet oak, New World wines so I don't have a rage stroke. I'll spare everyone a rant.
7. If you could drink one wine RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT, what would you want?
It's 6:30 in the morning, and I'm with Ceci, the new baby. I don't want wine. Coffee! Bring coffee. But usually the answer to that is ROBINOT. Jean-Pierre ROBINOT. Any cuvee.
When attempting to pluck from the masses a wine that matched Chef McMillan’s joie de vivre and his love for the wilds of Jean-Pierre Robinot’s very wild oeuvre, we knew there could only be one: Fêtembulles. (Fêtembulles. Guys. The wine is named “Partybubbles.")
Right now, Jean-Pierre Robinot is somewhere in Jasnières, that Northern outpost of Touraine in the Central Loire Valley, rocking a patchwork vest and track shorts, singing to his barrels and concocting some of the most mind-bending wines making their way across the Atlantic. Want an oxidized Chenin Blanc that drinks like Vin Jaune? How about a peppery, lean and sylvan Pineau d’Aunis? Maybe you’d dig an insanely mineral, complex and vibrant, totally delicious pét-nat built from chenin blanc that drinks like a breath of fresh air and oh my god it’s Fêtembulles. You could pair this with all manner of shellfish and summer fare, but we suggest getting right to the point and pouring it down your fellow partygoers’ gullets.
BONUS | Just because you've been good today: