The Faces of Rosemary Square: Michael “Iggy” Ignatowicz
Meet Michael “Iggy” Ignatowicz, general manager of City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill, who has led the celebrated restaurant since its opening and recently celebrated their 20th anniversary in Rosemary Square.
In honor of National Drink Wine Day, Iggy gave us a tour of the wine cellar and chatted with us about the restaurant’s unique offerings, how to properly taste wine, and more.
RS: What makes the restaurant’s wine cellar unique?
MI: Every seat in the restaurant has a view of the 45ft. by 22ft. glass-enclosed wine cellar and its stainless steel wine bins. The humidity and cave-like, temperature-controlled room (set to 58°F) make for the optimum housing of wine.
RS: How do you curate the wine cellar? Anything in particular you look for?
MI: I always look for new and changing trends in the industry while keeping in mind the wines that my guests have come to enjoy and continue to drink. I look for wines that can pair well with our diverse menu and specials that Chef Rolando creates, and wines that can also be enjoyed alone and with great value. My flight program is a great way to test new, exciting wines and wineries before possibly adding it to our wine list.
RS: What are you most excited about on the wine list right now?
MI: Different and unique varietals. For example, Malagousia/Xinomavro, a Greek white wine known for its Mediterranean Sea characteristics, limestone, minerality and great acidity. I am also a big fan of old world wines even if they’re from the U.S., such as Chinon or Cabernet Franc. I love the pyrazines for which Cabernet Franc is known, its great acidity and its versatility with food. It is bigger than a Pinot but not as full bodied as a Cabernet. I also like Pinot Noirs from Anderson Valley. The region’s fog through the redwoods help the pinots becomes more restrained, savory and nuanced with aromas of flowers, red fruits and earthy minerality due to the area’s terrain, elevation and angle of the sun.
RS: If someone is ordering wine for a large group with varying taste, what do you recommend they order?
MI: I would definitely recommend ordering a white and red for the table so everyone can enjoy some wine. Depending on the size of the group, I would recommend a wine that’s diverse enough to not overpower seafood yet big enough to hold up to meat dishes. My goal is for guests to enjoy their wine before and during dinner without breaking the bank.
RS: How do you order wine if you’re intimidated and feel like you don’t know the terminology?
MI: Get curious! Most people are intimidated by the wine’s names, grape varietal and the taste profile. Wine should be fun and adventurous, so don’t be afraid to ask your server or sommelier for help to guide you in the right direction. Also, don’t be afraid to branch out, order something you are unfamiliar with or Google it.
RS: How should we taste wine when the sommelier/server pours a bit in your glass for sampling? What are the “steps” of wine tasting?
MI: First, swirl the wine in the glass to get the bouquet to open. Aerating the wine helps to get the most out of it. Next, smell the wine to notice its notes. Taste it and swirl the wine in your mouth to coat your palate. Breathe out as you swallow to determine if your mouth becomes dry – due to tannins – or if the dryness comes forward on the bottom of your teeth, which will occur due to acidity. Also, taste for the nuances of the wine to ensure its quality and that it’s to your liking. It’s also important to consider proper glassware, a major factor in tasting wine as bouquets change with different glassware.
RS: What do you think is the most exquisite pairing of food and wine at City Cellar?
MI: A 6 oz. Coravin pour directly from one of the wines on our Cellar Reserve list – served in Reidel glassware – is amazing with any entrée. Try Alex Gambal Chassagne-Montrachet with our most popular dish, Crab Crusted Chilean Sea Bass. I also recommend The Lineage (Bordeaux blend) from Livermore Valley paired with our Wagyu Short Rib. If you’re in the mood, try a cheese and charcuterie plate with 3 oz. pours of any of our 75 wines by the glass.