In Medieval Provençal times they were saumaliers, animal pack drivers who evolved during Middle French kingdom to become court officials charged with transportation of supplies. So what does a modern day Sommelier actually do? Well, Wikipedia outlines as such, “A sommelier or wine steward is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food matching. The most important work of a sommelier is in the areas of wine procurement, wine storage, wine cellar rotation, and expert service to wine consumers.”
A reasonably accurate job description although perhaps a little parched as our new-age sommelier has evolved to a higher learning with a wine Jedi cognizance and a seventh sense that can psychoanalyse a diner, marry the person, the dish and the wine in seconds. They are now the gateway to wine discovery equipped with clairvoyance in food and wine trends, inspiring thirst around the world.
Feared by winemakers, loathed by wine distributors as the arbiters’ of wine lists, the restaurant patron should embrace their knowledge, skills and talent as they are hopelessly and passionately obsessed with wine and will take you on journey of gastronomic enlightenment. And our new-age sommelier is no longer confined to fine dining and can be found in casual eateries, wine bars, gastro-pubs, winery restaurants, wine stores and you’ll even bump into an air-sommelier at 30,000ft these days. Some have hung up their waiters-friend and metamorphosed to the wine trade as brand ambassadors, distributors or consultants, but once a sommelier, always a sommelier.
This column explores the gustatory and olfactory manifestations of sommeliers all over this planet. We take a cross section of the sommelier’s stomach and intestines to reveal what and where they eat. And we dissect their taste buds and dopamine receptors as they relent to the Wandering Palate narcosynthesis and confess to their personal vinous pleasures and closely-held secrets – this is The Sommelier’s Palate.
Name: David Glancy, Country: USA
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I am the Founder and CEO of San Francisco Wine School http://sanfranciscowineschool.com/.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
I had a wonderful meal at Izakaya Yuzuki in San Francisco – http://yuzukisf.com/ . Their cuisine incorporates koji into the food. The freshness and purity of everything was fantastic and it went very well with their extensive sake offering. I particularly loved their house-made fresh tofu with sea salt.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
I have had many social and business meals at the Village Pub in Woodside, CA – http://www.thevillagepub.net/. The name does not do this restaurant justice with their massive, international wine list, farm to table cuisine and team of sommeliers. This is the first restaurant in the small, local Bacchus Restaurant Group, and all of them are excellent.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
My most memorable meal was 10 courses with wine pairings at the long closed Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco. The chef created a special meal for us and the sommelier came up with pairings on the fly. As far as consistently exquisite cuisine, Le Bernardin in New York City – http://le-bernardin.com/ is my all-time favourite. I have dined there twice and it was simply incredible.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
If I lived closer, I would eat at CoCo 500 in San Francisco -http://coco500.com/ once a week or more. It is comfortable, has reasonably priced, expertly prepared food and friendly, helpful service.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I am a very basic cook but I sometimes make up recipes with success. My daughter loves when I make Pan Fried Red Snapper battered with Panko & Coconut served with Quinoa Cooked in Chicken Stock with Diced Red Pepper and Mango.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
I have two favourite wine bars. St. Vincent – http://www.stvincentsf.com/ is in San Francisco’s edgy, hip Mission District. I also like ENO – http://www.enowinerooms.com/hotspots/san-francisco half a block off San Francisco’s Union Square. Their wine and cheese flight is fantastic.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
San Francisco Wine Trading Company – https://www.sfwtc.com/ has a great selection and every member of their team is friendly and knowledgeable.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
On the rare warm, sunny San Francisco summer days I have been drinking Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc and Tavel Rosé. On the more frequent cold, foggy, windy summer days here I have been drinking Anderson Valley and Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
My wine journey began with Vouvray demi-sec when I was 16. My obsession with all aspects of wine was nudged along 13 years ago when I was lucky enough to taste 1959 Chateau Latour next to 1961 La Mission Haut-Brion.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I was recently introduced to Ariston Aspasie Cepages d’Antan Champagne made from ancient grapes of the region Messlier, Arbanne & Pinot Blanc. It has bracing acidity and loads of minerality.
Tell us what is your ultimate wine bargain discovery in terms of price/quality rapport? (i.e. does not have to be cheap but over-delivers in quality for the price)
I LOVE Louis Boillot Cremant d’Bourgogne Brut Rosé.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
On a recent night I popped into St. Vincent (mentioned above) late night for Charred Tripe, Grits and Manzanilla Sherry.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
I fell in love with Argentina in 2006. The stark contrast between the high desert of Mendoza’s Valle de Uco and the snow-capped Andes Mountains was unforgettable. Rugged cuisine was a perfect match with grilled meats of all kinds including goat and my daily staple of each place’s style of empanadas.
Select a six pack of wines that you think are absolutely outstanding and inspirational, and that will set people on a journey of vinous discovery and enlightenment.
2011 Champalou Vouvray Cuvée Fondraux – http://www.champalou.com/
2012 Nigl Gruner Veltliner Freiheit Kremstal – http://www.weingutnigl.at/
2010 Dumol Chardonnay “Chloe” Russian River – http://www.dumol.com/
2008 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir “Laurene” Dundee Hills – http://www.domainedrouhin.com/
2009 Bodega Numanthia Toro “Termes” – http://www.numanthia.com/
2010 Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf du Pape “Barberini” – http://www.domaine-solitude.com/