Originally from Chicago, dancer-turned-sommelier Marquita Levy has wowed the wine industry for nearly two decades. Her career started at Tucci Milan, a Chicago restaurant, where she scored a busser gig to pay the bills. Shortly after, Levy was offered a front waiter position that required a good amount of wine knowledge.
For the vodka-with-cranberry-drinking dancer, this posed some problems. But determined to succeed, Levy began attending wine training classes with her team. She experienced moments of isolation, loneliness, and racism along the way, but she persevered, rallying the same discipline, passion, and technique she had formerly mustered for dance.
Today, Levy can be found hitting the streets to sell wine for Volcanic Selections, a sustainability-focused distributor in Brooklyn, New York. When asked what she’s been sipping lately, the answer was immediate. “I’ve been in love with Riesling for awhile,” Levy wrote, via email. Her partner, Brad, loves trocken (dry) Riesling, “so it is our go-to wine, regardless of what we’re eating.” Levy has been drinking a lot of Spätlese — luscious, late-harvested Riesling — which has given her a whole new “ah-ha” moment with the grape.
“I figured out that I never knew Riesling until I went up a sugar level,” she says. “Dry Riesling is lovely. Spätlese Riesling is vertical lightning strikes from heaven. As Biggie Smalls said, ‘And if you don’t know, now you know.’ I can hear the song as I type this.”
Levy shared three bottles of Spätlese Riesling that have recently taken her breath away.
Her partner Brad’s favorite since he got struck by Spätlese, says Levy, describing the wine as pretty and structured, with notes of white peach, pineapple, passionfruit, lime, grapefruit, and jasmine. “It’s like shooting an arrow of fruit over a long distance to light a fire. The length is forever.” Levy likens the tension between fruit and acidity to looking at the sun sparkling on waves. The wine is produced from 100+ (average) year old vines in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany. Fruit is picked by hand and vinified in steel with ambient yeasts. Her recommended pairings include carne asada tacos with salsa verde.
“I hear all the salsa music with this wine — serious shoulder shakes on this one,” she says, describing it as richer, rounder, and more powerful, heading towards dry Auslese (an even later harvest that results in rich wines), but with roaring minerality and acid. “Here you get more flowers, lavender, candied lime, petrol, and smoke,” she says. The wine is produced from sustainably farmed vines rooted in blue Devonian slate soils in the Mosel. Fermentation with ambient yeasts takes place in old Mosel fuder casks, which hold 219 gallons. “This is not a Fiat Punto. This is the upgrade to a James Bond Audi car chase. This is Milan to Florence in an hour,” she says. Levy recommends sipping this wine with all things spicy, including Thai takeout, especially from menus where “you order everything with the pepper icon,” as well as jerk chicken wings or Popeye’s fried chicken.
“This was the most expensive Riesling I’ve ever drunk at home,” says Levy. “This was LeBron James-level Riesling. Tears will fall. All caps Riesling. I think my heart stopped beating.” Müller’s Scharzhofberger is produced from overripe grapes harvested from slate gravel soils in the Mosel. “This is Zeus’s chariot taking a ride around the earth. His lightning bolt is solid Egon Müller,” says Levy. The wine clocks in at just 8.5% ABV. She recommends pairing it with a Porterhouse steak in a butter bath with herbs.
Editor’s Note: Vicki Denig has done freelance social media work for Volcanic Selections.