Comedian and actor Matt Walsh knows a thing or two about navigating the wine world, at least when it comes to finding a solid, tasty bottle. The Upright Citizens Brigade sketch group co-founder has a knack for knowing what bottles pair with meals. “I always have a couple of good reds ready to go — like a Cab, Pinot, or nice red blend — and then some kind of offering of a Sauvignon Blanc or rosé, something lighter. I always have that happening. It’s kind of like offering a general bar for those to choose from; I don’t dictate so much.”
But right now, he’s eager to chat more about his latest feature film, “Unplugging,” a story about a couple addicted to their screens who decide to put them away for a weekend retreat. When they get to the cabin with no Wi-Fi or cell signal, they pull up some chairs on the back acres, open a bottle of wine, and watch the sunset.
When did you first start to enjoy wine and how does it play a role in your life?
I think since living in California I’ve become more of a regular fan of wine. As a younger person, I would drink more beer. As I became a family man and hosted things — as opposed to living in an apartment with four other dudes — I enjoyed a more settling kind of vibe. It was more of a celebration getting together that wine coincided with. Obviously, California is infested with good wine, so it’s hard to not be at a party when somebody opens a bottle and you feel like it’s a shame to not finish it.
As you became a family man, was there an experience where you remember a bottle being opened that changed your perspective on what it meant to be a wine consumer?
I don’t know if I have a seminal moment or story I’ll never forget, but my older brother became a wine connoisseur, and in turn, he started to turn me on to good wines. He was that ridiculous person who had a wine locker at the local steak joint. I always enjoyed it when he’d open up his wine locker because he’d always have a secret good bottle of wine in there.
I don’t have a wine locker or room myself, but I have a basement and I’ve been in this house for 10 years. In the basement, there’s a cubby that goes right beneath the house, and that’s sort of my dusty wine keep. It’s not really organized, but it’s fun to collect wines.
A buddy of mine gave me a $125 bottle of Opus with strings attached, almost like an NFT where you had to do something once you purchased it. The mandate was that I couldn’t open the bottle until I had something worth celebrating. And he made me promise him! Though he wasn’t saying I had to open it with him, which would have been really lazy and selfish.
When our movie premieres in a week, I’m going to bust out this wine and share it with our little indie crew that’s stayed with the project for all the years it took for us to finally make it.
When I was in Oklahoma with Eva Longoria — she and her husband are big wine fans — and they were hosting us a few times at their Airbnb rental and always had good wine. They live well, so they were dropping some good bottles, and I could taste the difference. They were very generous in sharing the good stuff. As with all things, if wine is paired with good company or good food, it’s amazing.
When I was working on the show “Veep,” we all had busy schedules and there was a Whole Foods and a wine store next to us that we’d always go to. It became a weekly trip to the wine store and I started to learn the midrange good bottle price points — $25 — and developed a taste for some Pinots and Cabernets.
Were there any specific bottles you enjoyed?
I did a wine movie called “Under the Eiffel Tower” that we shot in France at the Château Beauregard vineyard. Every night, we’d drink their various reds and I was able to bring a couple of bottles home, and I’ve since ordered a couple.
In New York, there was a good Chelsea wine store where I was living and the higher-priced Sterling in there was pretty good. Same with other trusted labels — Cakebread and Stags’ Leap were solid, too.
It sounds like you also have a good enough group of friends who will bring over bottles you can enjoy from the Matt Walsh wine collection.
Exactly. And there’s enough good wines I’ve had in my life that I’m never short of finding them in front of me. Like, I’ll know that’s a good one and that’s a good one. I’m certainly not picky.
I remember being in France for the festival after the Cannes Film Festival called Cannes Lions, which is more advertising and marketing people. I was there on a panel for “Veep” and we got to speak about politics with James Carville, and — long story short — they were taking us to all of these restaurants, and one of them you had to go to by boat to this little island off the French Riviera. I’ve never drank so much deliciously chilled rosé in my life.
So, I have a real soft spot for a nice chilled rosé, especially if it’s daytime. I’ll pick a rosé first before I go into a red or a white. Even at night, if somebody else is going to drink it, I would go rosé.
If it’s an evening event, I always tend to have red wine with dinner. I just like the heaviness of it. So if I had a rosé before dinner, I’d probably have a red with dinner. For whatever reason. I don’t dislike white wine, but I never really end up drinking it that much.
When you’re having your parties, do you tend to pair the cuisine to the red or is there a go-to red that you have?
If it’s a morning, brunchier vibe, we’ll go mimosas with a Prosecco or Champagne with some juice. If the bottle is coming out later in the evening, I’ll pull out a cheaper bottle because people’s palates are a little drunker. In general, the good wines are offered up earlier with dinner and if people want to keep drinking and socializing, I will probably pull out good wines, but not the fanciest wines.
What can also be a game changer sometimes is a chilled red wine. You don’t ever think of chilling Cabernet or Pinot Noir, but it’s really delicious and it’s incredibly good to do every once in a while. People are kind of blown away when you offer them a chilled one. It tastes fruitier or livelier or something.
I feel like food does dictate what you’re going to serve, or time of day — as will the region. If you’re up in Napa, you’re probably going to want to try their local wines, right? If it’s Spanish food, you’ll try and pair it with Spanish wine. I think all of that stuff matters. In general, if I’m entertaining, it’s about options.