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.
Brandon Tebbe, MS – Denver, CO, USA
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Synergy Fine Wines, Consulting. I also work in restaurants serving and working as a sommelier to keep my skills keen, and to remember why I do what I do.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Restaurant Kevin Taylor – Denver, CO and Oak on 14th – Boulder
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Frasca Food & Wine – Boulder, CO. No one in Colorado touches the level of service here.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
12Restaurant – Denver. Chef Osaka is incredible… incredible. He has prepared the most mind blowing preparation of Foie Gras I have ever had. Same with Pork tenderloin.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro. The food is good, the wine list is great and the prices are insanely cheap. Not affordable, but downright cheap. I get in a lot of trouble here.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
All the time. The art of “what’s in the fridge” and then pulling an iron chef… or so says my family.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Montevertine “Montevertine”, Les Pallieres “Les Racines” Gigondas, Alto Moncayo Veraton, Chartogne-Taillet Champagne, Amayna Sauvignon Blanc, Ladera “Howell Mtn’ Cabernet, Waters Syrah, BrickHouse Vineyards “Cascadia” Chardonnay, “Year of the Dragon” Gamay Noir, and “Evelyn’s” Pinot Noir
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
1989 Chateau Gruaud Larose. More recently 1971 Chateau Haut Brion, Egly-Ouriet VP NV, 1984 Lopez di Heredia Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva, 2001 Chateau Rayas CdP
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Brick House Vineyards “Year of the Dragon” Gamay Noir. No carbonic here, just pure varietal expression, intense, powerful gamay. And Amayna Sauvignon Blanc; the perfect balance between Sancerre and Marlborough
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)
Brick House Vineyards “Cascadia” Chardonnay and Sandhi “Rita’s Crown’ Chardonnay
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Mosel, Germany were the most beautiful and dramatic, Willamette Valley inspired me to make wine (more about that in a couple years), and for food… Burgundy
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.
Egly-Ouriet “VP” Champagne
Montevertine “Le Pergole Torte”
Lopez di Heredia “Vina Bosconia” Gran Reserva
Chateau Haut Brion
Ceretto “Prapo” Barolo
Dalle Valle Cabernet Sauvignon