Cat Silirie, Wine Director, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Boston, No. 9 Park, The Butcher Shop, B&G Oysters, Sportello, Menton, Natural Wine, Point of View, Wine List, How to pick wines on a wine list, wine education, Sommelier’s Recs, Where to eat, Where to drink, Where to Shop, Where Sommeliers Drink, Go Where The Pros Go, Insider Recommendations, Wine Recommendations



Q & A with Wine Director Cat Silirie

Q. How did you get into wine?

A. 20 years ago there wasn’t an institute where you could go to get certified. You had to apprentice, and like other trades, find a mentor. I was able to apprentice under the buyer and sommelier Michael Fahey at Grill 23, one of the classic steakhouses in Boston. When he left, I was made the buyer.

A lot of young people ask where do you start? I volunteered a lot of time in those days.

Q. You’ve worked with Barbara Lynch for many years.

A. We started working together about 15 years ago at Rocco’s, which is this Italian regional restaurant. But we were colleagues here in Boston over 20 years ago and we always wanted to work together. She was a cook at Olives and then the chef at Fig, and I was the buyer at Grill 23. We felt like teammates in the trade since we were in our early twenties.

It’s hard to see how we’ve influenced each other, because at this point, we are sisters really. It’s a deep devotion to classic things. We both love Old World wine and food. Even with all the other distractions from New World wine on the market, we both just keep on wanting to go back to France and Italy, and now for me, Austria and Spain.

Q. Tell us about your wine training program, Wine Words.

A. I had this idea that if I took myself off the floor and spent a lot of time training waiters, bartenders, and managers, we could have a team of sommeliers who knew about wine, how wine tasted, and could discuss wine. It worked so well, that we now do it at all 7 of our places.

Q. In your mind, what makes a great wine list different from just an average wine list?

A. It’s definitely a sense of their point of view, a hand behind it. Something that shows there is a passion, rather than a ‘correct’ wine list. Imagine a list with seven Lambruscos and then you look at the menu and they have all these great antipastis. It’s something signature. It could be 5 Txakoli or it could be a run on Raveneau.

You know you have a ‘correct’ wine list right away when you have a category that says ‘Other Interesting International Whites.’ Wine lists that feel like they have to have something for everybody and they don’t do anything with a full court press, just do a little here and a little there.

There are too many restaurant wine lists, especially probably in hotels or more general places, that the wine lists has something for everyone, and it just drives me nuts. Too many brand names they think they have to have, then they try to be creative in this little other category and it is just not working. I went in this wine bar recently, it was a corporate one, and they have a hundred wines by the glass. I asked the bartender how’s that going with that list, do you sell a lot of different things? He replied ‘nah we just order 5 cases of Rodney Strong Merlot every week.’ There’s no training, no diversity, no passion.

Q. How do you create the wine lists for your restaurants?

A. The minute you look at the place with the slate bar and the wooden floor with meats and sausages hanging around, you kind of know what kind of wine list it should be.

Barbara [Lynch] creates these wonderful environments that basically already describe the type of wine list that should be in order. The Butcher Shop is definitely artisanal, handmade, old European reds for the most part and whites. Oyster Bar is perfect for rose and Muscadet. We have an Italian restaurant, it kind of looks like an American diner, but it’s called Sportello with really great authentic foods and we have all Italian wines, but all different regions and small growers. So that part of working with Barbara is really fun, how she creates these environments and the foods.

Q. What is your favorite wine with oysters?

A. My favorites are wines from grapes grown on fossilized oyster shells: Chablis, Burgundy, anything from Kimmerridgian soil, like Sancerre. I do love the oysters with oysters motif. I also love Muscadet. Even though that is a different terroir, I love that equally. And when Barbara [Lynch] said she was going to create an oyster bar in Boston, I said ‘we can finally sell Muscadet.’ We always have at least 2 Muscadets by the glass and 5 different ones by the bottle.


- Cat Silirie’s Wine Recommendations

- Cat Silirie’s Restaurant Recommendations



Italian / French

Beacon Hill

9 Park Street

Boston, MA 02108

T: 617.742.9991 (make a reservation)




South End

550 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02118

T: 617.423.0550 (make a reservation)



Wine Bar / Butcher Shop

South End

552 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02118

T: 617.423.4800




Fort Point Channel

348 Congress Street

Boston, MA 02110

T: 617.737.1234 (make a reservation)




Fort Point Channel

354 Congress Street

Boston, MA 02110

T: 617.737.0099 (make a reservation)


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Photograph courtesy of No. 9 Park | Photo Credit: Justin Ide | Photograph courtesy of B & G Oyster Bar

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Recommended By

- Sommelier Levi Dalton

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