Nostrana, the Italian restaurant from six time James Beard award finalist Cathy Whims, may be known for its meticulously researched pastas, happy hour pizzas, and one astounding radicchio caesar, but now it’s upping its wine service by having a dedicated sommelier on the floor every night of the week. “Nostrana's style is to not only offer enhanced wine service but to do so alongside $6 Margherita happy hour pizzas,” says head sommelier, Michael Doherty.
The sommelier seems to be having a tough year, or years, and with the elimination of tipping and a more wine-savvy public, some restaurants are doing away with sommeliers altogether. Marcus Goodfellow was the long-time sommelier at The Heathman Restaurant, and he tells Eater, “While many restaurants have moved away from the idea, it always seemed to me that a talented sommelier could easily justify the expenditure. Not only in better choices for the customers, or cutting costs, but in direct sales." Goodfellow says once he built a rapport with customers, many would choose to experiment with higher-end wines because they trusted his opinions.
At Nostrana, chef-owner Whims says it’s all about exposing people to new tastes and empowering the customer. “It's a rare opportunity to talk with an educated person, that you trust, to help you make the right wine choice,” she tells Eater.
Looking at the Portland dining scene as it stands today, Nostrana general manager Nicholas Suhor says the move requires a lot of buy in on every level. “The dedication that we have from all positions in the restaurant allows us to do cool stuff like this," he says.
Get a glimpse into what to expect on your next visit to Nostrana from the recent wine list below. The selection focuses on Italy, including orange and pink wines and wines from lesser-known wine regions, like Sicily and Puglia. And you’ll also find wines from little-known boutique Oregon wineries. Nostrana now has a sommelier to help you unlock their virtues, whether to pair with a $6 pizza or a $75 bistecca alla fiorentina, featuring a full kilo of dry-aged-forty-days St. Helens rib steak slathered in rosemary-garlic olive oil.