Sebastien Taffara’s education and infatuation with wine began at 15 years old, on the second floor of a brasserie in his native Normandy, France. Four years later, he moved to Paris, laboring as assistant to the wine director under famed French chef Joël Robuchon before heading up the wine program at Le Pergolèse. In Paris, he met Philippe Rispoli, a chef whom he would follow across the pond to Wellfleet. In 2009, the duo opened PB Boulangerie Bistro in Wellfleet. Taffara became the restaurant’s manager and wine steward—selecting the wines for the restaurant, stocking the 1,000-plus bottles in the wine cellar, organizing staff tastings, and arranging special winemaker dinners. Cape Cod Life spoke with the 26-year-old Taffara to uncover some of his personal favorite glasses, how to best pair wine and cheese, and the transition from a cosmopolitan city in France to the majesty of the Outer Cape.
CAPE COD LIFE: What are your observations about the level of wine interest and knowledge of the people who dine at PB?
TAFFARA: The people who come here are really educated about wine and they don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most want to drink French wines and 60 percent of our list is French. Many want to try a wine from Burgundy—rosé is also very popular since it’s a wine for summer. People are very curious and like to discover new wines. One night we opened a six-liter bottle of Gevery-Chambertin and sold it by the glass for $18. It was sold out in two hours. This was a real treat to have an opportunity to buy such a good wine by the glass. We do this in France. People here are very open-minded. They really listen. They ask me what they should order and care about what they’re going to drink. It’s great to share their passion.
Tell us what wines are your personal favorites?
I love the wines from the Rhone Valley. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte Rôtie are very exciting to me. I love to have a glass of Gevrey-Chambertin.
How do you like American wines?
I’m getting more interested in American wines. I like the pinot noirs from Oregon. In France, there is more complexity in the pinot noirs. The region, the climate, the soil make a very big difference, especially in Burgundy. We also bring in Bordeaux blends from California. These types of wines from America are very interesting to drink.
Tell us how to pair wine with cheese. This can be tricky.
Chardonnay goes well with many cheeses. Red wines from Gamay grapes from the Loire Valley or from the Beaujolais region go well with a cheese platter. Goat cheese is fantastic with a glass of Sancerre. Blue cheeses pair very well with a sweet wine, like a Sauternes or Barsac. Roquefort goes very well with a glass of muscat.
Why would you leave your job in Paris to come to work in Wellfleet? That’s a very big change.
I always worked in a restaurant that was established. I never had the opportunity to help open a restaurant, and this was a good opportunity for me. This is why I decided to come to work here. Growing up in Normandy I was used to the countryside. I grew up by the beach—Normandy is the Cape Cod of France. It’s a big change from Paris, but I knew what it was like to live in a small town. You get tired of the city. Here you get to enjoy the beach, the nature. No more subways, there’s less stress, I bike on the bike trail. I’m happy to be here.
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