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.
Kyle Wright, USA
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
The Rainier Club, Seattle, Washington State www.therainierclub.com
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Cocotte, Portland, Oregon http://cocottepdx.com/
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Ambonnay Champagne Bar Portland, Oregon http://ambonnaybar.com/
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Serafina, Seattle – Italian restaurant, sleek, sexy, great food, excellent service http://serafinaseattle.com/
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Yes; my wife and I cook many dishes, my favourite is her Bolognese
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Currently RN74, but it changes depending on mood
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
A&B Imports, wonderful French and Italian selections
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Always Champagne, Jacquart Brut Mosaique
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
C.H. Berres 1998 Spatlese Riesling, this is what told me I love wine!
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I have been geeking heavily on grower Champagnes, J. Lassalle, Alain Bailey, G. Chopin & Cie, etc.
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)
Caves de Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay Macon, FA – A single vineyard Macon Chardonnay, great quality and value at $12.99
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that you have experienced recently.
Duck Confit, green lentil and chanterelle mushroom ragout, wilted Swiss chard, herb oil & finished with a poultry jus – 2009 Jean Arnoux Gigondas Vieux Clocher
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Willamette Valley, OR – Dundee hills, the hills rise dramatically right from the valley floor, you never would know they are there. Every yard of the hills covered in vineyards of Pinot! I highly recommend visiting Domaine Drouhin, their winery perched at the top of the hills has the most dramatic view of the entire Willamette Valley!
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.
- 1. Lucien Boillot 2009 Nutis St. George Les Pruliers
- 2. Araldica 2008 La Luriana Gavi
- 3. Poggio Salvi 2009 Brunello di Montalcino
- 4. Marques de Gelida 2007 Vintage Cava
- 5. Metternich & Salomon 2005 Reserve Pfaffenberg Riesling
- 6. Cayuse Les Cailloux 2007 Syrah