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Staring down a restaurant wine list can be a daunting prospect—even the most educated enthusiast can’t know everything about every wine—especially when the list nears 1,000 bottles and reaches around the world. We asked three top North Shore wine managers to share their favorite wines for fall, and their best tips for navigating the world of wine to find your perfect tipple.


Nick Grimshaw

wine director, certified sommelier

Pellana Prime Steakhouse, Peabody

500-bottle wine list


Background/training: “Wine has always been a part of mealtimes and family gatherings,” says Grimshaw, who earned his sommelier designation from the Court of Master Sommeliers in February. “Ever since I can remember, I would hear tales of regions and winemakers. It was a natural progression to work in wine bars in England before moving to America and managing bars in this country.”

Favorite wine or region: “Constantly changing, with what I’m tasting and the season. At the moment, it’s Alsatian whites. Particularly the wines of Jean Hugel; his Pinot Gris is great on warm evenings and pairs well with fresh, light summer cuisine.”

Favorite fall pairing: The wines of Italy, particularly Tuscany and Bolgheri, with bone-in prime rib eye. “Reminiscent of the sun-baked earth of the Italian countryside, [those wines] pair beautifully with the more flavorful steaks.”

Hot wine region: Spain. “The new generations of winemakers are producing Tempranillos that are the equals of some of the best California Cabernets, but at a fraction of the cost. Particularly wines from ‘La Milla de Oro’ in Castilla y Leon; look for producers Abadia Retuerta and Bodegas Mauro.”

Best advice: “Work with your server or sommelier; give them an idea of what you will have to eat and your budget and trust them. Give them time to check on availability and vintage, and you will enjoy a wonderful wine you never even thought of.”


Steffen Gaebler

wine manager

Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, Lynnfield

325-bottle wine list


Background/training: “We include a very extensive wine education program during our two-week server training,” says Gaebler, who has completed the introductory sommelier course from the Court of Master Sommeliers. “As an ongoing process, we taste and talk about wines all the time during our pre-shift meetings. The only way to learn more about wine is to taste and talk, taste more and talk more…”

Favorite wine or region: Château d’Yquem, “the godly dessert wine from the Sauternes region in France. But if I had to pick one wine region for the rest of my life, it would be Tuscany. Besides consistently amazing wines, the area offers lots of my favorite foods.”

Favorite pairing for fall: Four Vines “The Maverick” Amador County Zinfandel, California, with tagliatelle Bolognese. “That is comfort pasta,” Gaebler says. “Only your grandma and our chefs here at Davio’s know how to make it perfectly.”

Hot wine region: Virginia. “Before prohibition, Virginia was the third largest wine-producing region in America. It took a long time to pick up where it left off, but now they are producing exceptional wines—even hard-to-cultivate Italian grapes like nebbiolo find a new home there.”

Best advice: “Ask for someone who knows the wine list. Many servers have amazing insight and love for wine. Then ask for the secret bottle that won’t crush your wallet but makes you want the same server’s advice on your next visit. You will love the wine.”


Sean Conroy

Beverage director, The Varano Group

Strega Prime, Woburn

850-bottle wine list


Training/Background: “I started out as a dishwasher at a mom-and-pop restaurant and made the decision to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York for formal training, which included an intense six-week wine program,” says Conroy, a 16-year restaurant industry veteran, who also studied wine on the job while working at some of the top restaurants in Las Vegas. “As I continued working in the industry, I became increasingly interested in wine, but it was when I was doing wine tours in northern California that it really became a passion.”

Favorite wine/region: White Burgundy. “I particularly love Chablis. This is the wine that helped me understand terroir.”

Favorite pairing for fall: Strega’s Osso Buco (or any kind of slowly cooked meat) with an Amarone. “The heartiness of the dish and notes from the wine really complement each other.”

Hot wine region: Portugal. “The country is producing really interesting non-fortified wines that I think people will gravitate toward.”

Best advice: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to the staff. At Strega Prime, we do not expect our guests to be familiar with everything on the wine list, so it’s our pleasure to help you pick the perfect wine to fit your experience.”



Pellana Prime Steakhouse

9 Sylvan Street, Peadbody



Davio?s Northern Italian Steakhouse

1250 Market Street, Lynnfield



Strega Prime

100 Sylvan Road, Woburn