Heavy Pour

Yoon Ha explodes the familiar pairing paradigm

Benu, the buzziest Bay Area restaurant in a season chockablock with frenzied openings, is gunning for greatness.

If (or when) it achieves it, such standing will be due in no small part to the sterling efforts of the restaurant's head sommelier, Yoon Ha.

Corey Lee's food is indeed distinctive. But Benu is young, and as Lee irons out the kitchen's kinks, Ha is running one of the smartest wine programs we've encountered.

During a recent sampling of the tasting menu, Ha poured a genius trajectory of wines made from grapes including Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Scheurebe and Blaufränkisch. In between, he tossed in Hitachino white ale and a junmai daiginjo sake.

We recommend experiencing Ha's tasting-menu matches for yourself. If, however, the à la carte menu grabs your attention, here are a few of Ha's favorite versatile bottles:

2008 Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz Grüner Veltliner ($40 for 375ml) "Grüner goes well with much of Corey's food, especially dishes like the sablefish gratin with cabbage and apple."

2007 Domaine du Montvac Gigondas ($14 by the glass; $70 for 750ml) "Southern Rhônes can be heavy. But the '07 has great balance and is delicious with the duck with artichokes and chanterelles, and the rigatoni with oxtail, sea cucumber and star anise."

Benu, 22 Hawthorne St. (at Howard St.); 415-685-4860 or benusf.com