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.
Rosario Ayala, Mexico
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I work in a wine import company as a Corporate Sommelier, my role here is consulting restaurants and hotels that do not have a sommelier. And also evaluate wines and wineries from old and new world to import them to the country.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
I went to bar la esquina last week in Cabo San Lucas, they have a very nice tuna tartar but one of my favorite restaurants is Tequila restaurant in San Jose Del Cabo, I love their tequila mussels and their whole rack of lamb cooked on wood grill.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
I didn´t have dinner at this restaurant but the wine list impressed me a lot! I was so excited just reading it! The name is ‘The inn at the little Washington’. It is a small boutique hotel. I knew the place when I was working in Washington DC and I couldn´t go because I was overload with work.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
The Grill Room at Washington DC. Their specialities are bone-in steaks, I believe the chef (Jacob Esko) along with his team is making such a great job, as well as the floor team.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
No because I like to visit them all to live the experience of each single restaurant
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I do, my wife and family loves when I´m in my days off because I cook, I´m a steak man so that´s what I normally cook rib eye that´s what I like also pastas, I like to do linguini with shallots, shitake, white wine, parsley and baby white clams, my wife love it!
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
A wine bar which concept I really love is the Eno Bar by Four Seasons in DC, a new wine bar, but I think if they keep working hard it going to very successful. I also like microbrewers beer, the one I highly recommend is Ramury
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Yes, Los Cabos Wine, but sometime I like to go to wal-mart because you can fine great wines in a very good price for example: a few days ago I bought a couple bottles of a Rioja Marquez De Murrieta Reserva 2006 $315.00 MX. The same wine was in Vinoteca at $485.00 MX; Those are the opportunities that we need search as a Sommelier.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Right now I´m having a cup of green tea but tonight I will open a bottle of Guado Al Tasso, Il Bruciato, Bolgheri, Italy, 2011
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
I have tried so many cult wine along my life, all the fifth growth of Medoc and many of the seconds and thirds, Wines of Giacomo Conterno, the five Grands Crus from Pulligny and Chasagne Montrachet from Recolectan Manipulat as well as from Negociants, cult wines from California like Harlan, Marcassin, Del Dotto, Colgin, Petter Michael etc, but the wine that almost makes me cry…. Hermitage La Chapelle of Paul Jaboulet 1985 Wow!!
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Ripasso de la Valpolicella Veneto and I will drink some Austrians Gruner Veltliner this week with a few friends-colleges that´ll be first experience with it.
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)
The wines of Finca Sophenia, Mendoza Argentina, it worth more than the price you pay for it.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Cured pineapple Carpaccio & litchi sorbet pair it with ginger-scented lemon grass infusion, room temperature
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Calistoga and Yountville great restaurants in Yountville like Botega, Bouchon by Thomas Keller and many more but the one I really loved was Rutherford Grill in Rutherford Napa. They do not charge cork fee which is great!
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.
E. Guigal Cote Rotie, Rhone Valley France
Isole e olena cepparello, Tuscany IGT Italy
Marquez de Murrieta, Reserva, Rioja Spain
Nicolas Jolie Culée de Serrant, Savenniénnieres, Anjou, Val de Loire, France
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Central Vineyards, Val de Loire, France
Chateau de Beucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley, France