Matt Kramer–The most passionate of wine enthusiasts

A couple of months ago, I was invited to the restaurant Kitchen at the W Seoul Walkerhill for an amazing wine pairing dinner with legendary wine scribe Matt Kramer from Wine Spectator. Matt’s been writing for WS since the ’80s, but he’s been writing about wine since the ’70s. You’d expect these wine dinners with wine experts would be snobby, snooty affairs.

Hardly so!

In fact, I find that the more people know about wine, the less pretentious about it they tend to be. They’re more bacchanalian sensation seekers who just love life. I noted during Matt’s presentation that there was a slight frustration in his voice. Well, not frustration. He was like a coach, a Dead Poets Society teacher, pushing what I saw were a lot of stiff Korean wine drinkers to enjoy wine for being wine. Wine drinking in Korea is like golf in Korea. Neither is done for enjoyment but for status. It’s a means to look down on your fellow human. Matt’s thesis for the evening was to ditch that bullshit. Dive into the wine. Feel it. Love it. Fuck the shit out of it!

Okay, he didn’t put it like that.

Now, I said this was held at the W’s Kitchen, which the Miele Guide recently put as the #3 restaurant in Korea behind Pierre Gagnaire and Jung Sik Dang. I agree with that ranking. Those are what I also think are the top three serious restaurants in Korea. This dinner proves why–and I’m not just saying this because I got to eat for free.


Since I’m more of a food writer, I’m going to talk more about the food. The dishes were given minimalist titles like I’ve seen at 11 Madison Park and Jung Sik Dang. The first was “tuna.” It was big eye tuna crudo (sashimi), orange and fennel, apple, beet “crisps” and an olive oil “bubble”–a classic modernist technique of making olive oil in the shape of an olive. The tuna was nice and meaty, lightened by the fruit and veg. The beet crisps were fun and whimsical. Sweet like the coating on a candy apple, and stuck to my teeth like that, too. This was paired with Lail Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc 2011. Refreshing. Gulpworthy. (Hey, if you want more serious wine commentary, Wine Korea’s Joshua went to the dinner too).


This was “scallop.” By far the most decadent dish. Why? See that little mandu dumpling to the right? Chef Ciaran Hickey’s favorite thing to do is sneak foie gras in dishes, and foie mandu is the pinnacle of that. In this case, they were tortellini. Was savoring that a good long while. Wine? I have to drink wine? Can’t I savor this a tad longer? Wines: William Fèvre Chablis 2011. Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009. Matt was very evangelical about Flowers. (On a side note, the web URL for Flowers Winery could also mistake them for a pig farm. Think about it.)

Lobster. Oh, this was also a dish to melt over. Lobster risotto. Iberico jamon. Goat cheese. With a buerre rouge (red wine butter sauce). Red, red, red, red! It was a punchy masculine risotto. This came with one of my favorite wines of the evening, Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010. It had those full stone fruit pinot noir qualities that I love. The other one was Bouchard Père et Fils Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru “Les Duresses” 2010. By that time, I was just drinking and eating without thinking too hard about the wines–which I gathered was Matt’s intention.

Veal. Roasted veal tenderloin. Pancetta and potato hash (my perfect breakfast). Shallot berry jam. The dishes got redder and redder. Those two fine glasses front and center were Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto D’alba 2010 and Descendientes de J. Palacios “Petalos” (Bierzo) 2010 (good story about the winemaker here).



Beef. Sous vide beef short rib–look at that color! So succulent and tender. Boratana onions. Boerewers sausage (a little South Africa making an appearance). Garlic aligot (fancy mashed taters). We drank even more wines with this. Crasto Superior “Douro” 2010 and Quinta do Crasto Reserva Old Vines 2010. Matt had us compare these two wines back-to-back. They were basically the same wine–same grape–just grown a few meters away from each other. He used this as an example of terroir’s influence on wines.


Strawberry. Now time for dessert. Panna cotta. Cassis sherbert berry basic consommé. Dried strawberries. That dish got licked up. Finished that with Schramsberg Crémant Demi-sec 2007. This sparkly had a little creaminess that harmonized with the creamy panna cotta. And I was thoroughly sloshed by then.

So much fun!

Seriously, the W Seoul has been working to get these special wine dinners with experts coming in from around the world. It is worth the splurge to have a memorable evening.

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Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain," The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles,” and other projects in the UK, Canada, and Australia featuring celebrity chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Gary Mehigan.Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide.He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.
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