"I've always looked for the different, the out-of-the-way, never the easy, sure thing," explains Rich Zellich when we ask him how he came to be the sommelier at I Fratellini. St. Louis has many wine enthusiasts, but except for the francophiles, few are smitten with the wine of a single country. Zellich is so rapturous about Italian wine that he reads about Italy's viticulture for several hours a day, leads a tasting group, takes Italian-language lessons and plans a sweep next year through several of the most prestigious Italian wineries.
Zellich learned about wine as the manager of the Stacks Café, in the old Library Ltd., as a manager and wine buyer at Provisions Market and as wine buyer for the Rock Hill location of the Wine & Cheese Place. At I Fratellini, Zoë Robinson's newest restaurant, Zellich has once again taken the road less traveled. He's crafted a gutsy all-Italian list, stocking the cellar with single-vineyard, barrique-aged bottles; rare farmhouse finds from Pulignano; the new so-called super-Venetos; and unusual wines such as amarone and Vernacchia. Zellich has also chosen fourteen wines to be offered by the glass and selected flights that allow diners to compare several wines of the same vintage, grape and region, such as three 1997 Brunellos di Montalcino.
Zellich's ultimate goal is to import wines from Italy to St. Louis, but his unique combination of brio and expertise may land him in New York, Napa or even Naples. For now, though, anyone with a bent for oenology should visit I Fratellini to learn from the padrone himself.