“What’s In Your Cellar?” With Matt Kopysh

SHARP & Mark Anthony

At Quetzal — a Michelin-starred restaurant in Toronto known for its spice, peppery heat, and smoky food — finding the perfect wine can be tricky. You need something that’ll stand up to those bold flavours and the decadent dishes that come off the kitchen’s wood-burning grill, yet still feel fresh and full of texture. For general manager and wine director Matt Kopysh, however, rising to this unique challenge is one of his favourite things about the job. Recently, SHARP sat down with Kopysh to divine his wine-selecting secrets, and discover how he picks his wine pairings during the holiday season.

How do you pair wines with the bright and complex cuisine of Quetzal?

It can be a challenge, but there’s always a solution. For example, we have a really fatty, rich pork jowl dish that’s served in the style of the famous “Tacos Al Pastor.” It comes with charred pineapple and caramelized onion and it’s just begging to be served with a rich, fruity, and bold white like the Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Chardonnay from California. The richness of such a wine stands up to the richness of the dish.

“A special wine such as this should be enjoyed whenever you’re with people that you love.”

Matt Kopysh

What about the other meats, like the decadent prime cuts of beef Quetzal is famed for?

When I think of a cut of Wagyu beef, particularly a rib-eye, coming off our woodfired grill, my mind immediately goes to a Napa Cab, like Sterling Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, because a fatty and rich cut of meat demands something with acid, it demands something with power and it demands something with tannins, all of which the Sterling Vineyards wine has in spades.

Do you consider special wines — such as Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia — suitable for everyday drinking?

I am of the opinion that a special wine such as this should be enjoyed whenever you’re with people that you love. I think the moment you open a bottle of wine like Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia, it becomes a special occasion.

It would make a good gift for a host, then?

Absolutely. You could give a bottle of Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia to a host and enjoy it right away or, because it’s known for its age-worthiness, it could be laid down in a cellar and opened years later.

Mark Anthony What's In Your Cellar? With Matt Kopysh

What do you consider the perfect wine to pair with turkey?

This question comes up every year, but my answer will always remain the same: Pinot Noir — one from Burgundy. Something like Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir is an absolutely show-stopping choice to go with a turkey dinner. It has brilliant acid, a beautiful texture and a little winter spice from its judicious use of oak.

Why Burgundy? Is that an Old World/New World wine distinction?

Yes, exactly. Old World Pinot Noirs and New World Pinot Noirs are divergent in a number of different ways. But, when we go to Burgundy, the home of Pinot Noir, the wines tend to be a lot leaner, fresher, and usually lead less with fruit and more with earth and spice. This makes them ideal for pairing with something like mushrooms, duck, or turkey.

When did you first start working in wine?

I was working as a bartender at a Toronto restaurant and a guest bought a special bottle to leave for the staff as a tip. It was a 1900 vintage Madeira, a fortified wine that’s often served for dessert, and it was bottled in the year 2000 — a century after it first went in the cellar. As I tasted the wine, I thought of the 100 years of history in that incredibly complex, super-layered, and textured wine. I was hooked.