December 5, 2015
It's cold outside, snowing even. Your arms are full of gifts you've so thoughtfully and locally purchased for your loved ones in downtown Northampton. Your feet are tired, your throat parched, your stomach could use a little attention. Get yourself to ConVino, the new wine bar in the lower level of Thornes. It's a gem in the heart of downtown. There's a fire burning, a wine selection to impress expert imbibers, and the food pairings rival any fine dining experience in Western Mass. Not only that, but you'll get to meet Caroline McDaniel, the owner, head chef, and true artist behind this diamond in the rough (okay, Northampton isn't that rough). And you'll also meet Sébastien Piekutowski, Caroline's sidekick sommelier, who wields a sabor, a poet's trove of adjectives to describe every possible flavor of wine, and an accent that just makes everything better. We loved having them at Ode, where they graced our Tribe Wishlist Soiree with wine and history (and swords and bubbly). If you missed that, or want more of that kind of education, join the Weekly Wine Workshops on Thursday at 6pm at ConVin or just stop by for a glass of wine with a friend. Meet Caroline and Sébastien of ConVino:
If you were a bottle of wine, how would a Sommelier describe you?
Caroline: Earthy & restrained on the open, fruity & dry after a few minutes. Bosomy on the finish.
Sébastien: Atypical, lively & fresh yet shows some depth, just enough structure. Can mature more, so not ready to drink yet.
If you had in your possession the best bottle of wine…with whom would you share it and where?
Caroline: Jeff Crockett – an old (older than me) dear friend who loves food & wine and conversation.
Sébastien: A trick question this is! I say that the company is what matters most (by far!), then the context, and finally the wine. But if I already have the wine and carry it in my heart, I’d want to share it with anyone who’s interested, has a good sense of humor, a capacity to communicate and listen, and hopefully different views than mine on life to nourish our conversations. The location is not important, as long as we are comfortable, and I would never want to feel pressed by time.
When you’re not pouring, drinking, or celebrating wine, what is your favorite thing to do?
Caroline: Cooking for friends and family. Also riding horses. And renovating houses!
Sébastien: Spending time doing nothing with loved ones, reading anything (although classic authors like Marguerite Yourcenar or Gabriel Garcia Marquez deserve a little more of my attention), traveling, dancing, boxing.
What inspires you?
Caroline: Music – most kinds and flavors.
Sébastien: People who are driven by love, who understand that there is no “Us” and “Them”, whose dreams are made of laughter and health to the expense of no one.
Best flavor in the world?
Caroline: Baklava, my grandmother’s.
Sébastien: Flavors and aromas are mostly analyzed by our olfactory bulb, a part of the limbic system which, amongst other functions, supports and regulates our emotional life. Essentially, you cannot dissociate what you smell/taste from your memories and how they make you feel. So for me, the best flavor in the world is whatever I smell in my grandmother’s kitchen. Cheesy? Oh yes. But so true.
What’s your secret talent/gift/trick?
Caroline: I am a world class ironer. Nobody irons better than me. Ask Jeff Crockett.
Sébastien: Dog whisperer and also a really, really good (uncomplexed) dancer.
You are masters of refined taste and an expert’s palette. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Caroline: Burger King Whopper – no pickles no onion.
Sébastien: No time for guilt. But I cannot stop eating pistachios if they are in front of me.
Top five adjectives that you use for food or wine that you love:
Caroline: Yummy, warm, perfectly balanced, delicious, sexy.
Sébastien: Fresh, creamy, spicy, funky, meaty. Caroline says I must add “unctuous” because I use it all the time…
What’s your go-to dance or morning song?
Caroline: Brighter than the sun – Colbie Callait
Sébastien: I Never Loved A Man – Aretha Franklin, I Get Lifted – KC & Sunshine Band
CONVINO. Tell us what that word means to you.
Caroline: It means “with wine”. Everything is better with wine.
Sébastien: Warmth. Doing what I love every day, with an awesome boss who wears her heart on her sleeve and understands me, and a team composed of brilliant misfits.