The Owner of The Royce and Marrow on Winter Wine Varietals

Her tip? Embrace low-alcohol wines in January
Ping Ho - The Royce Mink wine
Photograph courtesy of Michelle and Chris Gerard

Ping Ho, a self-described ‘wine enthusiast’ and co-owner of The Royce, discusses winter wine varietals and the drink menu at Mink, her latest Corktown eatery. 

Hour Detroit: How do “enthusiasts” differ from sommeliers in how they decide what makes a good wine?

Ping Ho: Sommeliers go through rigorous training. My education has really been just tasting as much as I can — with wine distributors, winemakers, fellow wine buyers, and also visiting wineries. My approach, because I’m not formally trained, has been multi-faceted and multi-pronged.

What’s new and exciting for you in January?

Weather-wise, January can be an abysmal month for everyone. And coming off of the holidays, people may feel a little palate fatigue. Focus on low-alcohol wines, so you don’t have to completely abstain. They’re fresh, light, and tend to fall under the so-called natural territory. In other words, they’re usually wines made with minimal intervention. I recently discovered a natural winemaker based in the Barossa Valley of south Australia called Smallfry. They’re a husband-and-wife team that makes really great expressions of wines with very minimal intervention. Some of my favorites from them include the 2019 Tangerine Dream, a full and dry orange wine, and the 2018 Stella Luna, a bright and fresh mix of Shiraz and Cinsault.

How did you develop the wine list for your newest restaurant venture, Mink?

Mink [which opened in November] has a more seafood-centric menu. My beverage director, Lisa Balagna, and I worked alongside each other to finalize a small list that will change quite frequently. It’s really focused on fresh white wines, sparkling wines, and sake. Sake is very new to me and Lisa, so it was fun figuring it out.