Wine guide for your first Wall Street Dinner with your Managing Director

Imagine you have been working super hard all day every day. Grinding out the hours while you see your associates and VP’s going out with clients, your managing director and talking about their amazing dinners and the great wine and whiskey they had at Wolfgangs, Lugers, and Raos. 

At last, you get an invite to a desk dinner to a fancy restaurant. You bought your gamo shoes, flexing your perfect wall street fit, you get to the restaurant with the boys and your MD being super impressed with you lately says, “Chad Tyler Vanderbergh III, pick the wine for tonight?”. You are all excited. This is what you have been waiting for. It’s your time to shine. You go through the list and pick “YellowTail Shiraz NV” . 

You are instantly told to clear out your desk and back to ops you go because your dad is still a large client of the bank and you can’t be fired just not front office material. Or you pick the right wine and maybe even teach your MD a little bit and now the associate has to go do the coffee runs. 

This guide is to give you some talking points about wine with superiors on your desk or with MD’s that you want to network with and have got the chance to bring up wine in the conversation and you want to find some common non work related conversation to have so that maybe he/she gives you a chance to work on the desk or pushes your career forward. 
We will focus on red wine basics for this first version of guide. I will post whiskey, beers, etc. in future installments.  

I am going to keep it simple. We will stick with two white wines, 2 champagnes and 4 red wines and what you should pair it with and a few names that are usually find on most wine lists.  

1. White Wines

Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is a great easy way to start your dinner or something to have at the bar if you chose not to get a martini or a Manhattan. It goes very well with seafood towers which is what you will most likely start with at a steakhouse or on a summer day. Sauvignon blanc should be drank chilled. 

There are not many variations on sauvignon blanc. It is a relatively cheap wine. Asking the waiter to bring the driest California or New Zealand based Sauvignon blanc is a good and clean move. Not many suggestions to give on labels as the standard deviation between wines is not that wide. 

  • Chardonnay: means “place of thistles” in latin. People have been drinking Chardonnay for several hundred years. It is the most popular white wine in the world. They are grown all over the world, but the best ones come from France, California, and Australia. California and French chardonnays are some of the best in the world. Chardonnay pair really well with creamy sauces, seafood an white meat like turkey and chicken. It is also a good pairing with creamy pastas and truffles. Mild cheeses like goat cheese pair quite well with chardonnays. Chardonnay prices can range quite wide. There are $10 chardonnays and $1000 chardonnays. 

The best chardonnay in the world use to come out of Burgundy until the 1976 Paris tasting where California wines beat out French wines for the first time and put Napa on the map as one of the premier wine growing regions. Chateau Montelena 1973 vintage beat out the most legendary French wineries like Meursault Charmes Roulot, Batard-Montrachet Romonet-Prudhon. Spring Mountain vineyar and Freemark Abbey also placed high at that competition. 

Some mass-produced labels (California based) to pick and usually found on many list are the following: 

  • Chateau Montelena
  • Grgich Hills
  • Far Niente
  • Freemark Abbey
  • Williams Selyem
  • Aubert
  • Pahlmeyer
  • Marcassin (This is not on many list and is a cult wine and usually goes for $300 a bottle but bring it up in conversation to look cool and knowledgably about cult wines) 

2. Champagne

Champagne is the designation for sparkling wine out of Champagne region of France. YOU CANNOT CALL IT CHAMPAGNE UNLESS ITS FROM CHAMPAGNE REGION. This is a very important designation. All champagne is sparkling wine, but all sparkling wine is NOT champagne. Champagne is obviously a great paring if you are having caviar for apps or fried chicken. 

  • Sparkling Wine: There are some great italian Proseccos or Spanish cava that you can order if it’s on the menu. If not pick American sparkling wines from California wine growing regions. Schramsberg, Roederer and Domaine Carneros are quite popular, and mass produced. A rare cult sparkling wine is Ultramarine which will not be on a wine menu but is good to know about to bring up in conversation about sparkling wines.
  • REAL Champagne: The standard champagnes that you might have seen like Dom Perignon, Tattinger, Cristal are all blends of different vineyards grapes. You can always stick to those but it’s good to know some other names. 
  • Larmandier- Bernier
  • Jacques Selosse 
  • Krug
  • Marc Hebrart

3. Red Wines: This will the part where you really get to stand out.

– Pinot Noir: Pinot noir is the lightest red wine out there. It usually has the lightest tannins so you can drink it by itself (The thing that makes your tongue dry when you drink wine). The most expensive Pinot noirs are grown in the burgundy region with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti being the most famous burgundy in the world. The bottles go for several thousands of dollars. It is good to know this information and bring it up in conversation to show you know what you are talking about. California coastal region is quite famous for Pinot noir and has some of the best value pinot noirs in the world. 

Pinot noir pairs well with a wide range of foods, fruitier version make a great match with salmon or other fatty fish, roasted chicken or pasta dishes. Bigger more tannic pinots are ideal with duck and other gamey birds or casseroles. Here are some great Pinot noirs to start your night off with.

  • Williams Selyem – A great California cult pinot that goes for $50-100 a bottle
  • Wayfarer
  • Failla (mass produced)
  • Flowers (found on almost all wine by the glass lists)
  • Sea Smoke (Cult winery)
  • Littorai
  • Rhys
  • Kosta Browne

-Cabernet Sauvignon– The crème-de-la-crème. Okay, I am a bit biased since I LOVE cabernet sauvignon. My entire collection is essentially 75% Cab sauvs from France and California. I will do an entire article on Cabernet Sauvignon for beginners. This will most likely be the wine you will be ordering at a steakhouse or italian old school pasta house. 

Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that needs to be drunk with food, given its acidity, tannins and alcohol. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule for drinking wine with food, you drink wine you like with food you like to eat, but Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely a wine that does better with food than without food, as by itself, it can be overwhelming. It pairs very well with steaks (if you have been watching my Instagram you will have seen this), ribs, cheeseburgers and big red sauce pastas. 


 Napa Cabernets to pick on a wine list- I will post cabernets that are in the 200-500 range which is mostly likely the range you will be picking of at an average dinner. Some dinners you might have a bigger budget, so I will toss in few higher end items to be aware of and pick to look like you know your wine.  

I will use the Sparks Steakhouse wine-list as a gauge. It is one of the better wine lists in NYC. I will post most of the mass-produced wines because these will be on most wine lists. 

  • Harlan (>1K)
  • Beaulie, Heitz, Louis Martini (old school mass produced napa cabs) 
  • Silver Oak
  • Silverado
  • Jordan
  • Ridge Monte Bello
  • Beringer
  • Opus One (500+)
  • ZD Wines
  • Diamond Creek (Would make you look very cool if they have this )
  • Sterling vineyards
  • Bryant family (cult wine – rare)
  • Schrader cellars (cult wine – rare)
  • Joseph Phelps Insignia
  • Shafer Hillside Select (one of my favorite wines)
  • Stags Leap Wine Cellar (Won the Paris 1976 red wine competition and beat Bordeaux’s)


The bordeaux first growths are the BB of the French wine world. They are the first wineries they produced wine in the world essentially. They are also very very expensive. You must absolutely know all the first growths if you ever plan to have a wine conversation. They are the premier grand cru’s of the wine world. 

  • Chateau Lafite Rothschild
  • Chateau Margaux
  • Chateau Haut-Brion 
  • Chateau Mouton Rothschild
  • Chateau Latour 

Some more wines that are just as good as first growths if not better that are often found on the list are:

These are also quite expensive but if you are out on a company dinner, just ask your boss politely for the range and then pick accordingly.

If you are in a jam when picking your wine, SEND ME A MESSAGE ON INSTAGRAM and I got you. I will make you look good.