Wine Talk: Sebastian Maniscalco Stays Thirsty (Wine Spectator)

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Like a fine super Tuscan wine, Sebastian Maniscalco has only gotten better with age. His comedy career began more than 20 years ago, but it’ s only in the past few that his popularity has skyrocketed. A Chicago native raised {in an|within an|in a} Italian-immigrant family, Maniscalco, 45, centers his comedy {on his|in the} upbringing, as well as his observations of everyday interactions in the world around him. From shopping {at the|in the|on the} local food store to Uber rides to raising his daughter, Serafina, with his wife, Lana, pretty much everything is fair game for Maniscalco.

His TV specials, including 2016’ s Why Would You {Do That|Do this|Accomplish that}? , 2014’ s Aren’ t You Embarrassed? {and this|which|and also this} year’ s Stay Hungry , which debuted on Netflix in January, offer a glimpse into his popular standup comedy acts.

{Most recently|Lately|Recently}, Maniscalco joined an impressive cast that includes Robert De Niro , Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’ s upcoming film The Irishman , {which will be|which is|that is} released this year.

But what does the comedian {do to|because of} unwind from his fast-paced career? One favorite activity is enjoying {a bottle of wine|a wine bottle|a wine}. Associate editor Gillian Sciaretta sat down with Maniscalco to discuss the wine misadventures of his younger days in L. A. and some of his wry observations {on the|around the|within the} world of wine and the people in it.

Todd Rosenberg

Maniscalco sold out Madison Square Garden for four shows in January.

Wine Spectator: {In your|Within your|Inside your} book, Stay Hungry (Gallery Books, 2018), you {mention that|which} your father-in-law, Scott, {who is|that is|who will be} nicknamed “the Grape Ape, ” really got you into wine. Can you {elaborate on|cite|elaborate about} that?
Sebastian Maniscalco: {Prior to|Just before|Ahead of} meeting my wife’ s family, I was not really educated in the wine world. {I used to|I did previously} go to the grocery store and just {pick out|choose|select} a random bottle of wine. {But then|However|But} after having the wines that Scott was pouring, my palate became a lot more {familiar with|acquainted with|knowledgeable about} what good wine is and what swill is. {And he|And} spoiled me with the {fact that|proven fact that|undeniable fact that} he was pouring some really, really nice bottles of wine for holidays and what have you.

We’ d go out {to a|to some|into a} restaurant, and I didn’ t know anything about the wine lists. But after years of being around him and knowing where the wine is coming from and what type of grape {it is|it really is|it truly is}, what to expect, I started {picking up|obtaining|collecting} the list when we went out.

WS: When you were starting your comedy career, you worked as a waiter {at a|in a|with a} bar in the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for many years. Did you serve a lot of wine?
SM: Every once in a while, {you would|you will|you should} get one of these guys that orders a nice bottle of wine. Now, I’ m a little upset at myself that I didn’ t take the job as seriously as I should have. Thomas Keller came in one night {to give|to provide|to offer} a food demonstration. And they asked me {if I|basically|easily} wanted to go, and I {was like|was just like}, “ Eh, I’ m not going to that. ” {I just|I simply|I recently} didn’ t know. {I was|I had been|I used to be} very ignorant.

So there was one instance where a gentleman ordered a bottle of wine, like a 1980-something. All I remember is that it was expensive. And I presented the bottle, I opened it, and I {was going to|would definitely} pour it. And the guy is like, “ Do you want to decant that? ” And I’ m like, “ Umm … Yeah! Yeah! ” But the decanting process {at the|in the|on the} Four Seasons was also something I hadn’ t mastered, because you had to put {a light|a mild|a light-weight} to the neck of the bottle so you can see the sediment. And I’ m like, to myself, “ Oh man … ” I had {to ask|to inquire|might} my manager.

Todd Rosenberg

Maniscalco at Radio City Music Hall

WS: {Is there|Can there be|Will there be} any particular wine {out there|available|on the market} that really resonates with you?
SM: For whatever the reason, I was introduced early on to Tignanello . And I really, really gravitated toward that wine. It’ s a wine that I pick up {every time|each time|whenever} I go to Wally’ s [Beverly Hills]. So being Italian and whatnot, that wine has stuck with me and has been a staple in my— I don’ t want to call it {a collection|a series|a variety} because that means you have to collect, you don’ t drink. I’ m kind of ripping through these wines.

Also, we’ re friends with the Colgins through my in-laws. So we’ ve been up to their winery in Napa. After we got married in Napa, they hosted the brunch. They were kind enough {to take|to consider|for taking} us through their operation. So they always float us a bottle every {once in a while|occasionally|every now and then}. I try to hang on {to it|into it|with it}, but I am drinking {everything that|anything that|exactly what} I have.

WS: You mentioned you buy wine at Grand Award winner Wally’s Beverly Hills at lot. What do you buy?

SB: [Lana and I] like the Cabernets, first and foremost. Then we like the Italian super Tuscans. And something that I haven’t gotten into that I {want to get|would like to get|need to get} into, but it’s {a lot of|a large amount of|a lots of} information, is French wines. And I tend to be kind of {put off|delay|defer} by them and {intimidated by|afraid of} them, just because it’s {something that|something which|a thing that} I don’t drink {on a regular basis|regularly|frequently}.

WS: Your comedy centers mostly on observing people’ s behavior. {Do you have|Are you experiencing|Are there} thoughts on people’ s behavior toward wine?
SM: {There is a|There exists a|You will find a} level of sophistication that comes with drinking wine. And again, I’ ve been on this side of the fence. My father-in-law taught me when you pour wine, you don’ t fill the glass. You maybe pour less than a third.

And we have friends that come over. {And we|And|And that we} open a bottle of wine, {and they|plus they|and they also} pour like half the bottle in the glass. It’ s a large wineglass, {but they|however they|nevertheless they} pour half— half! — of the bottle. It’ s just like: You have to have wine {in your|within your|inside your} collection for people like that, {people that|people who|individuals who} don’ t really {appreciate it|be thankful|enjoy it}.

Like, I’ m sure if somebody comes to your house that doesn’ t drink wine and says, “ Yeah, I’ ll have whatever you have open, ” you then {go to a|visit a|check out a} shelf of wine {just for|only for|simply for} that type of person. You’ re not going to waste {the beautiful|the pretty|the gorgeous} wine on this person, {because there|simply because there} has to be a level of appreciation that comes with drinking wine.

A version {of this|of the|with this} interview appears in the May 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator , “Women Chefs of San Francisco, ” on newsstands April 16. See what else is new!