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Why This Beverage Director Loves Bordeaux and German Wines

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When Ron Boyd wanted to introduce his customers to some unusual new wines, he didn’t have to force them to try a bottle. Instead, he added them to his tasting menu. Boyd, the general manager and beverage director at San Francisco’s Nightbird, had noticed his diners making some predictable decisions when it came to alcohol, and wanted to help them take a leap into the unknown. “When people order by the bottle here, it’s 90% pinot noir and chardonnay from France and California,” he explained.

Boyd runs the three-year-old Nightbird and its adjoining cocktail lounge Linden Room with his partner — in work and in life — chef Kim Alter. Together, they offer five-course tasting menus that make the most of California’s sumptuous produce, with market-driven meals that are bright in both taste and color. The fruits of the California landscape never disappoint when it comes to creativity and unexpected flavor combinations, so Boyd needed wine pairings to match.

“People are surprised when we use the German names for varietals [like Spätburgunder],” he said. “But when they find out it’s really a pinot noir, they’re open to it.” Boyd doesn’t just choose wines for their novelty: He describes German reds as “lush and bright” and Bordeaux whites as “a little bit richer and more floral.” They help bring out the flavors of dishes like black garlic and truffle pasta, which he recently paired with Le Roc Des Anges Llum Blanc 2017, or young chicken with hearts of palm, which went well with a 2016 Breuer Spätburgunder.

When it comes to German reds and Bordeaux whites, Boyd is determined to root out the best of them: “A lot of times those countries like to keep the wine they love secret; consumption is high enough at home that they don’t export too much.” Consider the secret out, thanks to Ron Boyd and Nightbird.

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