What was your first memory of wine and how did you know you wanted to be a Sommelier?
My first memory of wine was when I was around 5 years old or so, I would go with my dad to my grandfather’s house in Watsonville, California to syphon wine from barrels in his garage to gallon jugs.
I started collecting wine when I owned a sunglass store at Pier 39 in San Francisco. When I sold the business in 1986 a friend of mine recommended applying at Alioto’s #8 in San Francisco where Nunzio Alioto had hired a Master Sommelier Ronn Wiegand to train a sommelier. In which it became myself. A few years later Nunzio also became a Master Sommelier, and President of The Court of Master Sommeliers
What was your first wine job?
Alioto’s #8 Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco in 1986 (around 400 wine selection)
What is your favorite wine?
I like aged wines that you get “a sense of place” that are balanced, and terroir driven, with little manipulation. Some of my favorites would be older German Rieslings, Northern Rhone, American Cabernets, and Bordeaux
What differentiates the Rosewood Hotel’s wine list from others?
Extensive list of glass wines (54) and half bottles (160), plus a lot of hard to get allocated selections that you just don’t normally see unless you have built a relationship with the wineries over the years.
What is your philosophy on assorting your wine list?
I sort my wine list by “grape varietal,” then “by country,” and then “from north to south”
The philosophy behind this is that years ago when I organized it by country, many people never bought, or found the smaller country wines like a Chardonnay from Golan Heights, Chile or Africa. The way I have it set up also educates the customers knowing Sancerre is a Sauvignon Blanc, or that Hermitage is a Syrah, or that Barolo or Barbaresco is made from Nebbiolo grapes. This way when you are looking for a particular grape to go with your dinner you’ll see all the countries that produce that grape all together.
Who has been the most influential mentor in your career? Why?
There have been quite a few, but the ones that really stick out to me is
Tom Metz-who was a sommelier on a cruise ship, and became a good friend, who talked me into applying for my first sommelier job at Alioto’s #8 in San Francisco
Ronn Wiegand MS MW who was a calm and patient tutor as my first teacher
Nunzio Alioto MS for his wealth of knowledge, and seriousness, he was always testing you
Michael Bonaccorsi MS for being a great role model, who set a great example
Reggie Narito MS for coaxing me to take the Court of Master Sommelier program, in which he continually tested me, pushed- me, and encouraged me to keep going, and not to give up.
How do you educate your hotel guests about your wine program and any new or unique wine offerings you have?
We have four full time sommeliers on our property that are extremely knowledgeable about our 2,500 wine selections. The guests are always asking us questions about vintages, regions, how the wine is made etc. We also have a selection of 12 wines using the Coravin system where the guests can have the opportunity to try as little as 3 ounces of some extremely high-end bottles of wine and learn about them from the sommelier. Our wine list is also web- based so our guests regularly study our lists to see what’s new and research them all the time.
What is your favorite after work drink?
Lots of water.
What is your favorite local spot?
Cocktail and Wine Bar ”515” in Santa Cruz, California
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
Competitive, always positive, creative inventive mind, loyal and a funny sense of humor