Eight years ago, Paul Einbund began aggressively buying wine for a yet-to-be-named project: a casual, neighborhood restaurant with an accessible, highly personalized drinks program.
What he didn’t realize was that it’d take so long for that concept to come to fruition.
“I just kept buying wines as though I owned a restaurant,” says Einbund, a sommelier whose 20-year resume includes stints as beverage director at Frances and as a partner at the Michelin-starred Coi. Luckily, he adds, “I was smart enough to buy wines that I knew would age.”
Needless to say, when The Morris finally opened its doors last fall, Einbund was well-prepared. “I ended up with a much larger wine cellar than I had ever anticipated having,” he explains. As it stands today, the collection fills a 63-page “cellar list,” which is available upon request.
Informed by his career and travels, the wine list runs the gamut from century-old Madeira to Napa Valley cabernet to back vintages of cult-favorite Jura producer, Ganevat. But, while there’s plenty of depth across the board, many of the wines stretch back just eight to ten years, says Einbund, owing to how long he’s been putting them away with The Morris in mind.
“When you start talking about a wine list of this size you expect some age and some depth, but when you go to a restaurant of this kind you expect current release,” he says, explaining that the restaurant, by design, is meant to be casual. “This is neither of those things; it’s a hybrid,” he adds.
The wine program is also highly opinionated, with Einbund’s personal stamp visible throughout. Not only is he picky about when to list certain bottles in his collection (the vast majority of his current release white Burgundy, for example, is still put away), he’s also personally importing a number of wines that he considers essential to the program.
“There are these wines that I fell in love with that I either couldn’t get here or I couldn’t get quantity of here,” says Einbund, specifically citing Bénétière’s Côte-Rôtie, a wine that’s just now being distributed on the West Coast. “So I started buying them in France.”
He also works with a number of local winemakers, which is central to his mission at The Morris. “I wanted to drink local and I wanted to know I was in a local place,” says Einbund. (To drive that point home, the wine cellar door actually features an illustrated map spotlighting nearby purveyors.)
As a whole, however, his preferences yield a wine program that’s rather hard to define, even for Einbund. “I don’t think of myself as a one-region expert, and I certainly don’t think of this list as ‘me,’” he says, “but it is certainly very personal…because I bought a lot of wines that I want to drink.” But broadly speaking, it’s very much what you’d expect from someone like Einbund: a cellar full of toys to play with from a sommelier with two decades in the business.
Put another way, he says, you might call it, “Paul’s nerdy chic.”
The Morris in Five Bottles
Jean-François Ganevat Grusse en Billat Chardonnay
“I would push back against the hipster wine lists that list a lot of Jura and Arbois wines, but Ganevat is the king of Jura wines,” says Einbund. “His wines are very much like white Burgundy—but typically a fraction of the price.” Because Einbund gets just a few scant bottles per year from importer Kermit Lynch, much of his Ganevat stock consists of wines he brought in himself, many of them in magnum. “You know what they say,” says Einbund, “magnums show you care.”
- Price: $64
- Vintage: 2011
Mossik White Rock Vineyard JouJou Cabernet Franc
Loire Valley cabernet franc is a favorite of Einbund’s, and Julia Weinberg’s Mossik JouJou, made from Napa Valley fruit, he says, is a dead ringer. “This style of wine is sanguine, herbal, but plush and gulpable,” he says. “This shows we can make tremendous food wines in the States.”
- Price: $40
- Vintage: 2012
Unable to source Bénétière on the West Coast, Einbund began bringing this wine in himself after first tasting it in France a few years ago. “Pierre Bénétière’s Côte-Rôties are not as expensive as you would imagine for the elegance and the quality,” says Einbund, who cites the producer as among the best in the world for syrah. This bottling, he explains, offers “a complexity of depth and structure added on to the classic meaty, smoky berries of the most important syrah appellation.”
- Price: $150
- Vintage: 2009
Corison Cabernet Sauvignon
Before opening The Morris, Einbund purchased the contents of a cellar containing a number of California wines dating back to the 1970s. Though many of those were snapped up quickly when the restaurant first opened, he does have some remaining vintages, including a number of wines from Cathy Corison, a favorite producer of his. “Cathy Corison… has always made incredible wines that age and stand the test of time,” he says. As for pricing them, he keeps it relative to what he paid for the wines years ago, with many of the Corison back vintages selling for less at The Morris than at the winery.
- Price: $350
- Vintage: 1993
d'Oliveira Bastardo Madeira
“The grape [bastardo] probably doesn’t even exist on the island anymore,” says Einbund of this bottle, which he bought from the Rare Wine Co. (It’s one of about 20 Madeiras on his list.) He first encountered the grape—which he’d never heard of before—years ago at Bern’s Steak House in Florida. The wine it yields “is on the sweeter side, super delicious while retaining incredible acidity,” he says. “It’s just a very exciting Madeira to have.”
- Price: $675
- Vintage: 1927