Gustavo Aguilar was the first real restaurant sommelier I met in San Miguel de Allende. Sure, when the restaurant Cent’Anni opened a few years ago, he also had a lot of management responsibilities there, but when Cent’Anni’s servers needed to bring some sage advice about wine selection to a table, they brought Gustavo.
What I liked most about Gus was what he wasn’t. Too many sommeliers have way too much attitude. They come to your table in their crisp white jackets swinging their little tastevin cup from a chain around their neck. The next thing you know you’re spending twice as much as you planned on a wine you had no plans on ever drinking.
Gustavo Aguilar recognizes that the main job of a sommelier is selling but he also has great respect for value and the affordability of wines to his clientele. Some people have problems putting a peso amount on their prospective purchases. I don’t. And I can’t remember Gus ever having a problem with it either.
Gustavo’s ex-boss at Cent’Anni, Eduardo Lopez Guerrero, seconds that opinion.
“Gustavo has been always a very professional and charming person”, said Eduardo. “During the last years of his career in the restaurant business, his passion for wine has given him a new direction and he’s found a great opportunity.”
Eduardo was talking about the career move that Gustavo Aguilar made early this year. Moving a couple of blocks south to the new location of the wine shop Cava Sautto. Unlike their old location and their major competitor La Europea, the new Cava Sautto gives you room to move a cart around the store, to browse the shelves, and to take a good look at what Gustavo Aguilar is suggesting you drink. When the new shop opened, my alcohol allegiance almost immediately swung from La Europea to Cava Sautto.
Gus and I were exchanging emails and I asked him for four of his best recommendations for reds that the store is currently stocking. But I also gave him a proviso: none of he wines could ring up more than 400 pesos on the register.
“Of course”, he replied, and asked only one question: “Do you want them from one specific country or not?”
We decided “not” so he could share his very best. Here they are.
B&G Pinot Noir. France. $254.
This wine brings back memories of my days in the corporate world. It was the days when “Dress For Success” was at the top of the bestseller list. But it wasn’t just about the threads you wore, it was about the reds you swore by. When my expense account was ordering, it was a French Burgundy. When I got home, it was the same grape, Pinot Noir, but from outside the borders of Burgundy and inside the borders of my budget.
My first choice in the Eighties is still Gustavo Aguilar’s first choice today. The only difference then was we called it Barton & Guestier (though never pronounced it right). These days, it’s usually just B&G.
Gustavo likes pairing B&G Pinot Noir with Italian veal entrées or a rich fish dish like pescado a la veracruzana.”
Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel. California. $301.
For my personal tastebuds, Gustavo Aguilar nailed this one.
Ravenswood was the very first Zinfandel I ever tasted over 30 years ago and Ravenswood is still the most well-known Zin producer in the world. No Wimpy Wines was the winery’s early slogan and it still holds true today.
Gustavo told me, “This invites us to experience what a real Zinfandel is, full of delicious black fruit flavors, the traditional wine of California.”
He suggests Ravenswood Zin be “accompanied with a creamy pasta with mushrooms or with cannelloni and a tomato sauce.” Tonight, Don Day’s Wife and I are having it with a ribeye.
Vegantigua Roble. Spain. $380.
Like almost all red wines from Ribera del Duero (and neighboring Rioja), Vegantigua is made exclusively with the Tempranillo grape.
Gustavo told me that, “It is characterized by its 10 months of aging in oak. It’s a wine with body, with personality, that you can use for special occasions.”
Gustavo likes to pair it with sausages, cheeses or pate. I like it with lamb, especially barbacoa.
Monte Xanic Calixa. Mexico. $348.
This red comes from one of Mexico’s most celebrated wineries and Mexico’s most celebrated wine region, Monte Xanic in the Valle de Guadalupe.
Calixa is a blend of 60% Tempranillo, 30% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and benefits from a few months aging in French oak barrels.
In Gustavo’s “sommelier speak”, the wine’s acidity is “refreshing”, the alcohol is “warm”, the tannins are “elegant” and the body “silky”. In Don Day’s “street speak”, Calixa is a prime example of very good and very affordable Mexican wine.
Cava Sautto is located at Codo #36 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The shop is open from Monday to Thursday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Sunday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
In addition to his in-store responsibilities, Gustavo Aguilar is also available as a sommelier for private events and parties. You can reach him at email@example.com.