In the Cellar with Phillip Dunn of Spago

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Late last year, Phillip Dunn took charge of one of the best restaurant wine cellars in the country: the 30,000-bottle collection of Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills flagship, Spago. Dunn, who previously was a sommelier at Canlis in Seattle, has a global selection at his fingertips, and is as apt to reach for an Austrian Blaufränkisch as a Napa Cabernet. But he is particularly ardent about grower Champagnes, and he is expanding the sparkling list to 120 selections, with 10 by the glass and many in magnums. His personal taste leans toward Chardonnay-based bottles: “I like the elegance,” he says. “They tend to be more nutty and brioche in  character, and the minerality of the grapes grown on those chalky soils is more expressive.” His top five Champagnes for collectors also show a preference for a minimalistic approach to winemaking, with low dosage, biodynamic methods, and a general hands-off technique. This is winemaking on the edge, and these bottles demonstrate the reward of risking it all for greatness.