TELL ME SOMM-THING GOOD
Did you know we have our very own Level 2 Certified Sommelier at I.d.? Well, believe it! Brian’s the guy you want to talk to if you’re looking for the perfect wine and food pairing, if you want to try a wine you’ve never had before, or if you want to ponder life’s greatest questions...
Just kidding about the last one, but Brian’s well versed in all things wine and could tell you which of our wines will pair with both the scallops and the risotto. We did a Q&A with Brian, asking him all the juicy questions about being a somm. Check it out!
How did you become a sommelier?
Well, the short answer would be that I passed a couple difficult tests. But I became interested in pursuing somm certifications while I was at my previous job. It was the first restaurant I had worked at with a large wine list that was constantly growing and changing. At the end of every year, there was a prize given to the server with the highest overall sales. At the end of 2015, I had just won for the third straight year, so after careful consideration, my boss decided to offer to pay for my Level 1 exam fees for The Court of Master Sommeliers. I passed, but most students do not consider themselves “sommeliers” until they pass the second exam; something I happen to agree with.
In 2016, I came to I.d. planning to eventually take the next exam, but having no idea when. There’s a three-year window allowed between passing exams and, well, time flies, so before I knew it, April 2019 was approaching and I was running out of time. So, I signed up for an exam in San Francisco on March 24th and flew out just to take a crack at the Level 2 exam. I passed.
You are a Level 2 now. How far do you want to go?
I hope to attain a WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) diploma over the next couple of years. After that, I hope to pass the 3rd level (advanced sommelier) through The Court of Master Sommeliers.
Do you remember the first time a wine really blew you away?
Ready to be disappointed? Not really. Some wines are very delicious, don’t get me wrong, but what blows me away most often is the story behind the wine or the region where the wine is grown and produced. Or, even more often, the geeky, scientific explanations as to why ‘wine A’ tastes good to ‘consumer B’ and ‘wine B’ tastes good to ‘consumer A.’
...what blows me away most often is the story behind the wine...
What is the most expensive bottle of wine you’ve ever drank?
Hmmm...if we’re just talking what I’ve tasted, then it would be a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Echezeaux, Grand Cru, Burgundy (Pinot Noir) 2015, which retails around $2,000 a bottle. That was just at a tasting in Chicago where they only pour you about a tablespoon of it at a time. The most expensive thing I’ve been able to actually sink my teeth into is probably a 1976 Chateau Margaux Premier Cru Bordeaux. ‘76 was a poor vintage in Bordeaux, but that bottle could still probably auction for $400-500.
How should we taste wine when a sommelier pours a bit in our glass?
Hold the glass by the stem, then follow the 5 S’s: See. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Savor.
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Easy… Champagne. If I had to pick a single house, Billecart-Salmon. If I had to be very particular, Billecart-Salmon Nicolas Francois 2008.
Follow the 5 S’s: See. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Savor.
Which wines are most frequently ordered at I.d.?
Dry reds. A lot of cabernet, but some pinot noir, zinfandel and Syrah, too.
What is an unusual food pairing that really works?
I haven’t tried it yet, but Syrah and Indian food is supposed to pair well despite seeming very counterintuitive. One that I have experienced is sausage with gewürztraminer.
What wines would you buy as an investment in 2019?
If I had a lot of extra money to invest in cellaring wine, I’d make safe moves. Weather in certain growing regions in certain years will always affect the quality of the harvests in said regions, but when conditions cooperate, it’s always going to be the best of the best in Burgundy and Bordeaux, which fetch the highest prices.
There are other producers, however, in California, Italy, South America, and Australia attaining similar status by making great wines whom I’d want to diversify with. Examples would be Screaming Eagle from California, Sassicaia from Tuscany, Viñedo Chadwick from Chile and Penfold’s from Australia.