Rhône with it
The wine guy at Taylor’s Market on varietals, value and vino life
Sacramento, CA 95818
Those of you who’ve put in serious time skulking local wine departments know that the most compact yet well-rounded aisle to lurk in is Richard Ebert’s at Taylor’s Market.
His selection is broad enough that everyone can find something they like—whether it be a hefty Foothills zinfandel, a featherlike German Riesling or enough interesting French wines to satisfy a Francophile-oenophile, like me.
Ebert says that the selection represents his own extensive personal taste, but that his No. 1 priority is value, for himself and his customers. Every month, for example, he stocks some of his favorites, called “Dick’s picks.”
Taylor’s recently has expanded into a next-door restaurant called Taylor’s Kitchen, and Ebert hosts tastings with his “picks” every Sunday, for the reasonable price of $10 (delicious snacks included). He has also authored the wine list for the restaurant.
I recently spoke with Ebert about his tenure at Taylor’s and about the new Taylor’s Kitchen.
How did you get into wine?
Actually, I was in California in 1971 after I got married, and someone took us to a winery down in Santa Clara Valley and I just sort of immediately found it really interesting. Didn’t even really drink at the time. Wasn’t old enough, either, actually (chuckles), but they let that pass. That’s kind of how it started. That was a long time ago, 38 years ago!
Have you done any wine-related traveling?
Don’t do a lot of that. I mean, I’ve been to Spain on wine trips, and New Zealand. If I could, I’d like to do a southern Rhone thing. I wouldn’t mind going to Barossa Valley in Australia, but we’ll see, time and money permitting.
What’s your favorite region and varietal?
I have a rather broad range of wine interests, but I suppose anyone who knows me would know that I’m big on pinot noir. I like burgundy, but I find they’re usually too expensive, so I’m rather fond of California and Oregon pinot noirs.
I also like Rhone Valley wines a lot. I think southern Rhone wines are presenting probably the best quality and price values in the world right now. So those would be some of my favorites.
I’m a huge sauvignon blanc fan, no matter where they’re from, particularly New Zealand and the Loire Valley in France. California sauvignon blanc in the last decade or so has improved enormously. For years they tried to obscure the varietal character of sauvignon blanc, but that’s changed dramatically. So California sauvignon blanc is very good.
Have you noted any wine trends at Taylor’s?
I think that people are very value-oriented, but I think I always have been, too. I think I’m reflecting the customers and they are reinforcing what I do, and that’s why we get along so well here. I offer them what they want and they are very broad-minded, too. They’ll try almost anything from anywhere.
As long as you say it’s good and it’s priced right, they’re willing to try. They usually come back and say, “You’re right, that was good.”
Has anything sold really well that surprised you?
We do well with rather esoteric wines from the Loire Valley, muscadet or Cheverney. Most people really aren’t very familiar with these, but when they try them, they like them quite a bit.
What’s going on with Taylor’s Kitchen? What are you doing as far as wine?
Something I always wanted to do was to write the best short, fairly priced wine list in the world. So that’s kind of what we’ve done. The restaurant has been doing really well and I think it’s kind of like the store; we’re offering a good quality and good value.
Best selling varietals?
Probably pinot noir, and white would be a tossup between sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
How long have you been at Taylor’s?
A little over two years.
How did you come to work here?
I was a wine salesman in town for 23 years. This was one of my accounts for a long time, so when Kevin Schell retired, they asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, “Yeah, I’d like to.” I did the streets for a long time and that was enough.
Who did you work for before?
One distributor and for a broker for 17 years—direct wine marketing. I thought I’d be there forever but, you know, things change.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Taylor’s?
There’s two of them right there (gestures toward a couple)! I would say mostly I really enjoy—after all those years of being a salesman—having the autonomy to be the buyer for once, also knowing that I have clientele who’re going to be interested in what I buy. So that’s the other part to it: I get to buy what I like, and I have customers who will buy it, and that makes me happy.