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Food: Meet New York City’s New Guard of Wine Pros

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Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood is known for many wonderful things, although being a buzzing hub for the city’s wine professionals doesn’t exactly top the list (not yet, anyway). Globally speaking, the wine business has proven to be as elitist and exclusionary as they come, but with a greater push for a more equitable industry, everything we’ve known wine to be is shifting for the better thanks to a few determined changemakers.

a group of people walking down a street: Meet New York City’s New Guard of Wine Pros © Paola + Murray Meet New York City’s New Guard of Wine Pros

Tucked away on Mott Street, Peking Duck House—a local institution beloved for its namesake dish—is a monthly afternoon gathering place for Wine Migos, a tight-knit group of friends and bons vivants, all of whom work in the business in some capacity. Here, they catch up over the house classics and share select bottles of champagne from their own personal reserves—a ritual that came to be thanks to a shared love of the flavor dynamics between Chinese cuisine and a glass of cold, crisp bubbles. More importantly, this sacred meeting also represents a tangible response to the broader conversation around the politics and power structures within the wine world—which cannot be separated from what’s in the glass.

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A typical Wine Migos spread made up of Peking Duck House favorites, each of which is taken into account during bottle selection.

“We started doing [these] tastings because we love Chinese food with champagne, and because it was a way to get out of the formal, often white-dominated spaces where the sharing of beverage knowledge happens...”Kelvin Uffré

“In our industry, we are often asked in various ways to succumb to the homogeneity of white corporate respectability politics,” says Kelvin Uffré, a wine and spirits specialist, educator, and advocate, noting that working in wine is, in some ways, a lot like working in any other corporate setting in America. “We started doing [these] tastings because we love Chinese food with champagne, and because it was a way to get out of the formal, often white-dominated spaces where the sharing of beverage knowledge happens,” he explains, adding that it’s also about “vulnerability and brown and black boy love, and how we push for change with the currency we have.”

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a table topped with different types of food on a plate: A typical Wine Migos spread made up of Peking Duck House favorites, each of which is taken into account during bottle selection. © Paola + Murray A typical Wine Migos spread made up of Peking Duck House favorites, each of which is taken into account during bottle selection.

Along with Uffré, the Migos quartet includes Óscar García Moncada (wine and spirits director for 67 Wine and Spirits), Mozel Watson (owner of Wines by Mozel), and Marquis Williams (founder of Highly Recommended, a digital wine club and consulting company). The restaurant—Peking in the crew’s adopted shorthand—is a BYOB respite from the usual rotation of hotspots on every wine rep and sommelier’s radar.

Peking Duck House is a temple of American Chinese culinary excellence, the Migos crew its most loyal devotees.

“We usually wear our flyest shit, bring our dopest bottles, and pop off,” says Uffré, who had changed into a fresh outfit for the occasion after biking into the city from Brooklyn. (For this shoot, Moncada, Uffré, and Watson were all styled by Willy Chavarria, a designer known for his nods to Chicanx and Latinx cultures, while Williams wore a shirt of his own design paired with his signature bucket hat.) Collectively, the four opt for polished meets playful, with clean, voluminous lines, rich textures, and a statement accessory or two.

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(Clockwise from left) Moncada, Williams, Watson, and Uffré in their element at the back banquette inside Mott Street’s Peking Duck House.

And so, lunch with Wine Migos is a celebration. Uffré, Moncada, Watson, and Williams all come to the table with a signature look and with a special bottle to accompany one of their go-to dishes. Uffré cues up Frank Ocean and Omy de Oro on a cherry-red portable speaker for ambiance, and—on this particular scorching July afternoon—the other tables nod in silent approval as the space shape-shifts from weekday white napkin affair to full-on party, the Migos table its gleeful centerpiece. “Peking Duck House is so generous and accommodating,” Uffré shares. “We take care of each other here.”

a group of people sitting at a table eating food: Caption: Peking Duck House is a temple of American Chinese culinary excellence, the Migos crew its most loyal devotees. © Paola + Murray Caption: Peking Duck House is a temple of American Chinese culinary excellence, the Migos crew its most loyal devotees.

Highly Recommended founder Marquis Williams, wearing a t-shirt of his own design, holds a glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 rosé champagne.

A server brings a handful of wine glasses, and Williams begins pouring. The energy and joy are palpable. Plates begin to arrive, and the table fills as quickly as each glass empties. Moncada’s affinity for the salt and pepper fried shrimp generally inspires his wine pick each month: “I look forward to eating this dish days before we meet—I absolutely love the salty, crispy, and crunchy flavors of the shrimp with the slight heat of the green peppers and chiles.” For a “heavenly pairing,” his go-to champagne is a blanc de blancs, either a non-vintage Delamotte or Robert Moncuit’s Grand Cru “Les Grands.” “The notes of bright exotic lemon, orange skin, and chalky nuances are just perfect,” says Moncada.

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Mozel Watson, founder of Wines by Mozel, in an original Willy Chavarria design holding a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame.

Watson is a die-hard fan of the beef lo mein—a stir-fried combination of sliced steak, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and egg noodles—and he often reaches for Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, its fine bubbles “act[ing] like tiny knives cutting right through the noodles.” Each of the ingredients accentuates the wine’s round, creamy notes of bright green apple. “It doesn’t matter what’s on your fork,” Watson says. “It’s a perfect match.”

a group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses: CAPTION: (Clockwise) Moncada, Williams, Watson, and Uffré in their element at the back banquette inside Peking Duck House on Mott Street. © Paola + Murray CAPTION: (Clockwise) Moncada, Williams, Watson, and Uffré in their element at the back banquette inside Peking Duck House on Mott Street.

67 Wine and Spirits’ Óscar García Moncada holds a bottle of Pierre Paillard’s “Les Terres Roses” Bouzy Grand Cru Extra Brut champagne; Moncada is wearing a Willy Chavarria ensemble as styled by the designer.

a person posing for the camera: Highly Recommended founder Marquis Williams, self-styled and wearing a t-shirt of his own design, holds a glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 rosé champagne. © Paola + Murray Highly Recommended founder Marquis Williams, self-styled and wearing a t-shirt of his own design, holds a glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 rosé champagne.

For Williams, the fried honey spare ribs steal the show, and an equally standout bottle like Dom Pérignon’s 2003 rosé usually does the trick: “Lush berries and red fruits complement the sweetness of the ribs, yet [they] don’t overpower the dish,” he says. The sharp acidity, according to Williams, cuts through the fat of the meat, washing over the palate and prepping it for the next rich bite. Moncada has paired these same tangy ribs with two non-vintage rosé champagnes: Pierre Paillard “Les Terres Roses” Bouzy Grand Cru Extra Brut and Leclerc-Briant Rosé Brut, both of which offer a spicy red fruit element (thanks to the use of Pinot Noir in the blends), offsetting the ribs’ sticky sweetness.

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a person standing in a room: Mozel Watson, founder of Wines by Mozel, in an original Willy Chavarria design holding a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. © Paola + Murray Mozel Watson, founder of Wines by Mozel, in an original Willy Chavarria design holding a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame.

Wine and spirits specialist, educator, and advocate Kelvin Uffré wears Willy Chavarria, glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 rosé in hand.

And to accompany Peking Duck’s famed namesake dish, Uffré’s choice makes (almost) as much of a statement as each guest at the table: a Leclerc Briant Blanc de Meuniers Brut Zero. “The bracing, saliva-inducing quality of this champagne primes the mouth for the [duck’s] fatty sweetness,” Uffré shares, layering his house-made pancake with the fragrant oven-roasted meat and its accoutrements. “It should be lathered,” he advises, adding more hoisin sauce to demonstrate. “Like me at Orchard Beach with a bottle of Banana Boat,” he laughs as he tops off each glass.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: 67 Wine and Spirits’ Óscar García Moncada holds a bottle of Pierre Paillard’s “Les Terres Roses” Bouzy Grand Cru Extra Brut champagne; Moncada is wearing a Willy Chavarria ensemble as styled by the designer. © Paola + Murray 67 Wine and Spirits’ Óscar García Moncada holds a bottle of Pierre Paillard’s “Les Terres Roses” Bouzy Grand Cru Extra Brut champagne; Moncada is wearing a Willy Chavarria ensemble as styled by the designer.

Get the recipe for Honey Pork Spare Ribs »

a person holding a sign posing for the camera: Wine and spirits specialist, educator, and advocate Kelvin Uffré wears Willy Chavarria, glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 rosé in hand. © Paola + Murray Wine and spirits specialist, educator, and advocate Kelvin Uffré wears Willy Chavarria, glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 rosé in hand.

Get the recipe for Peking-Style Lamb Chops »

Get the recipe for Beef Lo Mein »

Get the recipe for Salt and Pepper Shrimp »

Where to Find the Best Wine Deals on Cyber Monday .
Get the best bottles for great prices for a limited time. Related: The Best Wine Subscription Boxes for Every Palate If you're always eyeing a particular variety of wine, look to the wine shops at The Vice Wine and Wine.com, which are offering deals on hundreds of individual wines. If you're preparing for holiday parties and want more than a few bottles on hand, there are also wine bundle discounts such as the Italian Getaway bundle from Firstleaf. Finally, for the deal that keeps on giving, consider a wine club membership or subscription, like those offered at Firstleaf, Plonk, and Winc.

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