wine wear daily

Lady Somm Style: Colleen Hein

by whitney on June 12, 2013

Been trying to diversify and represent a variety of US cities in this here series. So, I’m so happy we are following up Austin with Boston’s Colleen Hein, Wine Director of Eastern Standard. Classy lady alert!

How did you become a sommelier?

I have been working in various types of restaurants for well over a decade now.  It was, however, when I began at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square-a bustling brasserie a stone’s throw from Fenway Park in the fall of 2005 that I really began to take an interest in wine.  At the start of my serving career at ES, I was also finishing up my schooling for a “real job” in skincare and aesthetics. However, I found myself too attached to the hospitality industry to leave and decided shortly thereafter to dive head first and fully into a restaurant career.  I knew I needed a niche, a piece of the pie that I could call my own, and in turn moved into a management position that would later groom me into taking over the wine program -and yes, in turn leaving all that I had invested an enormous amount of time in behind.

I have completed and received certification for the four levels of the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Program at Boston University. I have passed the introductory course through the Court of Master Sommeliers, with the plan to receive my official certification this July.  I seek as many courses, classes, and tastings outside of the restaurant as much as possible, though it is still within the restaurant’s walls and amongst the staff that I still find the most growth and reward in my position.

What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?

My look as undoubtedly changed over the years!  There was a time when heels were the norm in my daily wardrobe but alas, my feet could only take so much.  Now, cute flats (multiple in black) that have subtle details that I can tie into my accessories are my go-to foot ware.  Blazers and slacks, always –turtlenecks and sweaters in the cooler months, and brightly colored breezy dresses in the spring and summer.  I must rock my Michelle rose gold watch and always a bright matte lip in red/orange or pink.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

For the most part my wardrobe stays the same throughout the day though I do tend to keep a sweater or blazer on hand to toss on if I am spending an extended amount of time in the cellar, which also doubles as my office – it keeps an appropriately chilly temperature!  I will usually bring a change of clothes if I am counting inventory as I am often either crouching to count lower bottles lying down deep within the cellar shelves or perched on top of a ladder counting stashed cases.

 What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant? 

  1. My way too geeky giant clip board with daily to-do list on top.
  2. Burt’s Bees pomegranate lip balm.
  3. Bobby pins for the occasional re-pinning of my French twist or bun.

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Assume which one person will be in control of ordering wine at a table.  Whether guests are a bit skeptical or pleasantly surprised when I approach to talk confidently about my wine list, I like to read the table as well  encourage group effort on choosing the bottle(s) – after all, it’s a very important decision that can be fun if the responsibility is shared by all!

2. Wear too high or absurd of a heel (my former self would guffaw at this!)

3. Wear long necklaces that can take a dip in a guests’ food or beverage- yes, it has happened.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

I tend to sneak what is looking good on a given day from the raw bar on the half shell i.e. oysters and clams.  Steak tartare accompanied with a glass of light red I’ve given a good chill to usually fits the bill if I need a bit more of a protein kick after a long day.  But never frites- they are a major weakness and of course you know you can never have just one…

Photo by Kristen Teig

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Lady Somm Style: June Rodil

by whitney on May 24, 2013

It’s about high time we showed a little love to the Lone Star State! I can think of no other lady somm worthy of the spotlight than Miss June Rodil, General Manager and Wine Director of the very soon-to-be opened Qui in Austin, Texas. Giddy up!

How did you become a sommelier?

My story is pretty similar to most, I think. I was a cocktail waitress at the Driskill Hotel in college and then slowly began climbing the ranks into the fine dining room, then I became a Captain, and then got a knack for pairing wines for guests. I loved remembering what a guest had to drink previous time they came in to dine and then would coax them into something new every time they came in. It was a great way to get to know our regular patrons without delving into personal lives (does that sound weird?).

After graduation, I applied to law school and go accepted. I had a minor breakdown while I was getting ready to relocate: why leave a city I love (Austin, TX), and why leave a career path I’m truly passionate about? So, yeah. I stayed. I walked my ass to Uchi and told them they needed a Beverage Director and that it was me. They didn’t have a “position of that nature” at the beginning, but were open to it so I started off as a waitress. A few months after starting at Uchi, I entered a competition for Texas Best Sommelier…and won. So, when I went back to work, I asked them to make a business card for me with the title. After that, I grew to become the Beverage Director of the company. I left three years later to open Congress Austin, and am now in the process of opening Qui with my homie, Paul Qui.

What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?

Totally depends on the day, but…

Clothes: POCKETS! I have to have them. Not only is it handy for your wine key, I have a bad habit of gesticulating with my hands like a fool, so it’s nice to have a place for my hands. I love bright colors and comfort. It’s hella hot in Texas, so if there’s a flowy neon dress with pockets, I will probably buy it. I despise suits, but will wear them for professional conferences and competitions. I feel trapped and man-ish in them. Also–the scarf is the way. It’s my “flare.” If I find myself in a clothing rut (and sometimes I do) I usually get a new, colorful, patterned scarf to cheer me up. It’s also quite practical. It’s hot outside, so people blast their a/c indoors. A scarf is perfect for that.

Hair: I got lots!  It’s either in a messy bun on the top of my head with a headband to accessorize and hide the stress bands, or, I’ll wear it down if I’m at an event and/or find time to fix it.

 

Jewelry: Minimal. I wear a ring from my boyfriend that he had one of our friends make for me. It’s silver and very delicate and unobtrusive, and small earrings–I’ve got some bumblebees and wishbone earrings that I love wearing. I fear dangly earrings at work. I can just see myself getting caught in something and ripping earhole. Gnarly. If I’m feeling sassy, I also have a blinged out Swarovski crystal Hello Kitty ring for some whimsy.

 

Shoes: I start with ballet flats and move to heels during service…and then back to ballet flats. The heels feel heinous, but I have a penchant for expensive shoes. I’m Filipino, and thus have an inherent dream of being Imelda Marcos.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

God yes. If it’s inventory and I know I’ll be hauling around boxes of booze for long hours, I’ll straight up show up to work in yoga pants, a hoodie, and sneakers. Being comfortable makes things go faster. Plus, I don’t want to appear disheveled and wrinkled by the time service comes around. There’s a great many things that happen to make service go seamlessly, but a guest shouldn’t have to know that–they should just see the end result. I believe in looking as well kept as possible makes you feel good and helps you put guests at ease and, ultimately, provide them with a great experience.

 What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant? 

Pockets, wine key, phone.

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Frown–we work with wine for godsakes! What have we got to frown about???

2. Crappy, chipped, loud nail polish.

3. Take yourself too seriously.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

Right now, Riesling. It’s about to be the Summer of, ya know. It reenergizes me at the end of the night. After working 12 hours, a little acid and sugar gets me going. We serve Robert Weil Riesling Tradition btg, so you may find me pouring a glass of that at the end of the night.

Photos by Jennifer Day

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Lady Somm Style: Carlin Karr

by whitney on April 25, 2013

This edition of Lady Somm Style is one of my favorites yet! Carlin Karr, of Frasca in Boulder, has some great insight into her life as a sommelier. And I love her sense of style! I feel like we are style sisters. If that’s even a thing. Ballet flats for life!

How did you become a sommelier?

During my senior year of college, I became obsessed with cooking and throwing epic dinner parties.  I decided to move to San Francisco in 2008 after graduation and enrolled in culinary school.  A few months in to culinary school, we had wine class – I was instantly obsessed.  I immediately dropped out of culinary school to pursue wine.  I had never worked in a restaurant before so it was pretty much impossible to get hired in any position at any restaurant in San Francisco.  I relentlessly applied to any wine-related jobs while studying wine independently.  After passing my certified sommelier exam in 2009, I was introduced to Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarity through mutual friends.  Matt and Teague were opening a small restaurant in San Francisco, also with very limited prior experience and were willing to take a chance on me.  The three of us opened Sons & Daughters in May 2010 and somehow managed to earn a michelin star and the enthusiastic support of the Bay area food and wine community.  I was the General Manager and Wine Director for Sons & Daughters until May 2012, when I moved to Colorado to take the sommelier position at Frasca.

What’s your daily uniform for work?

Clothes: I’m all about tailored, feminine, and functional silhouettes for work.  There is no specific dress code for the wine team at Frasca, so there is a lot of freedom.  I think the biggest challenge for me has been appearing professional and mature while staying true to my style.  I generally try to avoid anything too girly or cutesy, but always want to be feminine and in flattering silhouettes – most first time guests are surprised to realize I’m the sommelier since I look like I’m 19 years old – It always makes for an interesting initial interaction.  I wear tailored dresses and a-line skirts with cardigans/blazer or a slim cut pixie pant suit.  I absolutely can’t wear something without pockets and sometimes take dresses or skirts to my tailor to have pockets added.  My go-to pieces come from J.Crew, Club Monaco, Vince, and Philip Lim.  I also love buying great bags and belts when I’m in Italy at Bugatti in Udine.  I’m a lifelong J.Crew devotee,  and love how classic yet sharp their clothes are.  I wear a blazer or cardigan over my Navy blue J.Crew Allie dress (sadly discontinued)  a lot – it’s perfect: lightweight wool, pockets, and super feminine.  I also have the same dress in blood orange, which I love wearing on the busiest nights.  I also love my Vince leather ‘boxer’ skirt – its a bit more edgy but still understated and has hidden pockets. I used to avoid pant suits because almost all of them feel awkward and masculine, but have started to love the chic silhouette and functionality of a modern pixie cut pant suit, especially because it allows me to ride my bike to work.

Hair : I always have my hair pulled back in a low chignon or in a simple ballerina bun.  I know a lot of women in the hospitality business wear their hair down, but at the end of the day, we are serving food and the chance of stray hairs landing in a guests food or wine is not okay.

Jewelry : Super simple – just my Datejust watch and a David Yurman citrine ring from my mom.

Shoes: BALLET FLATS – I was born in ballet flats.  I can’t imagine wearing anything else at work – they make me feel light on my feet and don’t leave much potential to slip and fall in the back of the house.   My favorites are from Tory Burch, Lanvin, and Vera Wang.  I commend any sommeliers who wear heels, but know that I will never have the grace or coordination to work a busy night in anything but flats.

Make-up: I keep make-up super simple- eyeliner, mascara, and concealer.  I also whiten my teeth almost everyday because I am paranoid about having the wretched purple teeth of many seasoned somms.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

With the exception of inventory, I usually go to work dressed for service.  The hours prior to service always seem to fly by, so I usually don’t have time to change.  Two of the three Frasca businesses (Frasca Caffe and Pizzeria Locale) are open during the day so I inevitably interact with guests and regulars, and prefer to be dressed in the same way I would be during service.  That being said, Boulder is an extremely small town, and I rarely leave home without running into Frasca guests, which definitely makes me more conscientious of my appearance on days off – something I never thought twice about when living in San Francisco.

What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?

1. My Cartailler-Deluc Couteau sommelier wine-key.  It’s the only one I’ll ever use – simple, understated, and lightweight.

2. Great lip balm – my favorites are Trish McEvoy and Guerlain.

3. Tide-Pen. If I am wearing a white blouse, without fail, I will splatter red wine on it.  I also sometimes offer it to guests who spill on themselves – It happens to the best of us.  The Tide Pen works (and works better than Wine-Away.)

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Have too much to drink during service. It’s sloppy, unprofessional, and embarrassing.

2. Draw attention to themselves or make it “about them” rather than “about the guests” – humble, thoughtful hospitality is always at the core of the best wine service, yet so few sommeliers perfect it.  Aldo Sohm, Alan Murray, and Yoon Ha exemplify the perfect combination of humility, knowledge, and style on the floor.

3. Perfume is never okay – neither is bad breath.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

I sit down for dinner every night with our owners, GM, bar manager, and fellow sommelier.  Our chefs are incredibly hospitable and make us whatever we want to try from the menu – such a luxury.  We always try various wines with dinner and enjoy each others company.  On Saturday nights, Bobby (owner and Master Sommelier), Matthew (wine director) and I blind taste a flight of 6 wines – 3 whites, 3 reds – not from our wine list to fine tune our skills.  I’ve learned more about wine from doing this with them than I would have ever expected.  We are all super passionate and competitive so it’s a fun ritual.  Needless to say, this means that I often find myself sipping on all types of classic wines, from Bordeaux to Australian Riesling.

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Lady Somm Style: Liz Nicholson

by whitney on March 27, 2013

Meet Liz Nicholson, Beverage Director of Maialino in New York City. We were introduced via email by a wine colleague way back in 2009 when both of us were crisscrossing Italy for months on end. We never did get to meet up, but it’s so nice to hear about how she’s living now and how it all began for her. Have a read!

 How did you become a sommelier?

I often wonder had I not come to New York City if I would have ended up in this industry.  I cannot, after all, say that I would have never ended up in the restaurant industry, which is certainly the leaping off point for the place I find myself today, but the determinant has really been some inspirational people I met along the way.

I came to New York to work in fashion.  I did a rapid 1 year program at FIT that got me an Assosciates degree on top of the BS I had just received in Textile & Apparel design from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. My first job was as an assistant designer for a new label launch for Nicole Miller.  It seemed like everything was lining up, except that I wasn’t that happy.  So, when the line got cancelled and I found myself without a job I turned to restaurants to fill the immediate void until the “right job in fashion” revealed itself.  Well, needless to say, that job never appeared, but by 2 years into the restaurant business I was pretty much done looking.  By then I had already been bitten by the beverage bug while working for the BR Guest group where I met the first influential person in my current world of wine, Laura Maniec.  I loved her passion and her teaching methods, but I was most in awe by her knowledge.  She was the first person to make me realize that there was even this career path.

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Lady Somm Style: Kathryn Weil

by whitney on January 28, 2013

Meet the always sunny and smiling Kathryn Weil!  Kathryn is currently transitioning from Wine Director of Santa Monica’s  Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Milo & Olive to sommelier for Terroni‘s soon to be opened second location in downtown Los Angeles. I love this lady and the energy she brings to the wine game!

How did you become a sommelier?

I moved to New York City after college with a degree in English and a dream of being an actress – which meant I was looking for a job in a restaurant.  I started out as a back waiter in this darling little place called August in the West Village.  I knew nothing about food or wine – so I was completely overwhelmed but totally IN LOVE.  I think I was the only actor in New York who adored her day job.  I bought Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible and it took me a year to actually read through the whole thing but I was hooked.

What’s your daily uniform?

Clothes: At Rustic Canyon, the dress code was upscale casual.  So I loved to wear fun dresses and skirts – preferably colors and prints.  I love vintage.  My favorite is a blue and white striped belted 50′s dress with pockets.  Now that I’m at Terroni I’ve got a sweet striped apron.

Shoes: Heels – I don’t feel like myself without them.  That being said, they’ve got to be super comfortable to wear all day. Usually it’s my vintage Mary Jane pumps or my Indigo ankle boots. I love heels.

Jewelry:  Always – I can’t even go to the gym without earrings. On the floor I keep it simple and small – my grandmother’s diamond studs and my recently acquired engagement ring.

Hair & Make-Up: I have naturally curly hair, so unless I blow-dry it straight, I’ll wear it up to be out of the way – a high bun or low-french roll, 40s style. I wear eye make-up, never lipstick.

 

Do you transition your clothing from daytime duties to nighttime service?

On days when I’m stocking or working in the cellar then absolutely!  I’ll wear jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt so I can move easily, lift stuff & get sweaty.  When I’m tasting, I usually wear my evening uniform or something a little nicer – like jeans and a pretty blouse.  But whether I’m pushing the dolly, doing inventory or going to a tasting I’ll be wearing heels.  I told you, I love heels.

Three things you can’t leave home without.

1.    Wine key

2.    My tasting notebook

3.    extra bobby pins

Three things a sommelier should never do or wear.

1.    Smoke.

2.    Wear perfume. Everybody says it and everybody’s right.  It’s distracting and unprofessional.

3.    Be pretentious. There is always more to learn.

What do you eat and drink at the end of your shift?

I’d like to say that I’m perfectly disciplined, eating kale and drinking a single glass of champagne.  But I have a big giant huge sweet tooth.  My standard go-to at Rustic Canyon was a glass of Le Corti dei Farfensi “Carennum” Vino Cotto or Vinos Barbeito “Savannah” Verdelho Madeira Special Reserve with a walnut torte (a la mode).

Top photo by Elizabeth Daniels

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Lady Rep Style

by whitney on January 17, 2013

Let’s switch it up and give the WINE REP ladies a moment in the spotlight. There are some stylin’ women out there pounding the pavement bringing good wine to the people. Meet Jenna from Rudi Weist and Danielle from Weygandt-Metzler! They had back to back appointments at the wine shop yesterday and both showed up in polka dots. Great minds.

The nails are done, accessories on point, and the shoes fantastic.

There are some wine reps, who shall remain nameless, that sometimes come to tasting appointments in flip flops. Sorry, but I don’t want to be forced to see your hairy man toes when I’m tasting wine. Let’s make an effort and put our best foot(wear) forward. Literally.

See all the Wine Wear Daily posts here!

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Lady Somm Style: Jordan Salcito

by whitney on November 15, 2012

You might’ve seen Jordan Salcito’s lovely self on the floor of many a New York City restaurant. She’s spent time at some amazing spots including Gilt, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel and most recently Crown. She’s currently working on a new restaurant project set to open in early 2013 with her husband, sommelier Robert Bohr. Jordan is certainly a lady about town and one to know. And I’m obsessed with her black Tory Burch dress with the sheer sleeves!

How did you become a sommelier?

Indirectly.  My grandfather, whom I never met, grew grapes and made terrible wine in his backyard.  My dad, who was thirteen when his father passed away, associated wine with his father and in turn, I associated it with my grandfather.  At a very early age, wine for me represented a connection to my past. It always held allure.

My ah-ha moment occured at the La Paulée de Nièges in January 2006.  Daniel Boulud (to whom I will always be grateful and for whom I’d been cooking the prior several months) invited me to work with him at the Burgundy-inspired wine event in Aspen, Colorado.  I was petrified that I didn’t know enough to hold my own, but I read everything I could about the region and its producers.  In Aspen, I met some of Burgundy’s most legendary winemakers and was able to try benchmark wines dating back to the 1920s that these winemakers and their ancestors had produced.  Burgundians are among the warmest people in the world.  They are also exceptionally good at preserving their stories.  And their wines are delicious and compelling.  The final night at that event, I asked Jean-Pierre de Smet of Domaine de l’Arlot if I could work harvest at his estate, and he agreed.  Since then, I’ve been able to work harvest each year at various domaines.  Working harvest made me want to become a sommelier.  The best way, for me, to share these wines and their stories is on the restaurant floor.

What’s your daily uniform for work? 

It definitely changes depending on the restaurant. At Eleven Madison Park and Gilt, I wore my hair pulled back in a bun and sported a suit with a pressed button-down.  Crown was a fashion-forward environment, so I could be more whimsical – dresses and heels.  For the next restaurant, set to open in March, the uniform will evolve again.  I like my outfits to resonate with the space and channel the restaurant’s overall message.

Clothing:  I am and will be forever smitten with the black dress.  It’s just easy.  And it masks potential spills, an occupational hazard.  All last winter I wore the gorgeous “Gertrude” dress, by Tory Burch.  It manages to be chic, flattering, and comfortable all at once.  Also, it was texturally beautiful – sheer silk arms and a velvet band at the base of the skirt.  Maje makes a brilliant little number called the “Madison” – I wore it so much this summer that I went looking for a second one and they were sold out across the US.  Also excellent – tunics, particularly those with pockets.  They’re great with leggings, dangly earrings and heels.

Jewelry! – I tend to have serial relationships with pieces, and I like them to be versatile enough that they can go with just about anything.  For service, my current object of obsession is a pair of dangly wheat earrings by Aurélie Bidderman.  She takes individual wheat stalks and dips them into gold.  Her emphasis on authenticity and backstory mirrors two of the things I love most about wine.  And her aesthetic is just beautiful.

Shoes: Oh my.  I had the most wonderful pair of shoes.  They were a casualty during a tragic cellar flooding last May, and when they started to warp I finally tossed them.  These shoes were black, suede and satin peep-toe slight-platform Hermes pumps, and they went with literally everything.  And they were comfortable!  They also lasted about 2 years longer than they should have (well done, Hermes). I bought them at Ina, a store in SoHo where you can find brand new or like-brand-new pieces for a fraction of their retail price.  Go there, and ask for Squirrelly.  She’s the best.

At EMP and Gilt, I wore the slightly-heeled Danskos.  My friend Jane and I have talked about launching a company that makes attractive, comfortable footwear for women in our industry – it’s a void that needs to be filled!

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

Off the floor, practicality reigns.  When binning wine or changing the list, I wear jeans, Converse All-Stars and a comfortable top – usually some sort of sweater.  In the fall, I embrace the cold weather and my sweaters are cozy, gray and black – but by February I wear the brightest colors I can find.

During the harvest, I wear jeans, my Domaine Dujac harvest fleece, and usually one of Andre Mack’s  Mouton Noir slogan-inspired wine tees.  A favorite – his Oscar Meyer / Henri Jayer switch-up.

What are the 3 things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?

1. wine key

2. cellar key

3. little black torchon – inspired by John Ragan, who enforced this mise en place at Eleven Madison Park, and it’s brilliant.  I use one throughout the entire night instead of having to go through 50 white napkins.

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Chew mints or gum during or right before service.  (Your palate is shot for at least an hour).

2. Flirt with a guest who is on a date.  (I’ve seen this happen, more than once, which is why I’m putting it in here.)

3. Sandals.  Not hygienic, and someone will shatter a glass next to your foot sooner or later.

What you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

I try to stay healthy after a shift.  If the kitchen is open when I finish, I’ll order one of the lighter appetizers from the menu, so that I can stay familiar with the flavors in play.  More often than not, the kitchen has closed so I’ll grab an apple and curate a snack from the pantry – a slice of cheese, Marcona almonds, dried figs, dark chocolate pieces.  I can also never resist a good salad.  I know that sounds boring, and that I’m supposed to say I want to go home every night and eat a big piece of pork belly, but before bed, I want vegetables!

I also have a glass of wine, either from a bottle leftover from a table, or something we’re pouring by-the-glass.  It’s a great way to check quality and just stay in touch with the selections.  And usually, that glass is Burgundy or Riesling.

Sabering a bottle of Champagne in her wedding gown. Like a boss.

Top photo credit: Noa Griffel for Tory Burch. All other photos provided by Jordan Salcito.

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Lady Somm Style: Rachel Kerswell

by whitney on October 29, 2012

We’ve got Canada native and recent Los angeles transplant Rachel Kerswell in the Lady Somm Style hizzy today. You can find her working the floor with grace and poise at Osteria Mozza. Seriously. She’s lovely.

 

How did you become a sommelier?
I was introduced to the possibility of working in wine when I was 25 years old. I was working in advertising, all the while hating my job, and had recently inherited a wine cellar of approximately 150 wines. At the time, not knowing much about wine, I decided to take a beginner class to get me going. It wasn’t long after that I discovered I had a knack for tasting wine and a serious passion for wanting to learn everything there was to know about it. I quit my advertising job that summer and started as a bartender while studying for my certified sommelier exam. Everyone thought I was crazy but my gut told me it was the best decision I had ever made. The rest is history.
What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?
A suit. But to keep it feminine I like to wear a pencil skirt with a matching jacket and a collared button-up shirt. It’s imperative I have pockets, as I need my wine-key, a pen, and a lighter at all times. My hair is usually pulled back into a simple ponytail or bun and I never wear jewelry, nail polish or much makeup. Not because I’m not allowed, simply because its not my style and I think it should be kept as simple and professional as possible when at work. Since I can work up to 10 hours on my feet, I wear the comfiest shoes I can possibly find.
Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?
Most definitely! What a lot of people don’t see or realize is the grueling side of being a sommelier. I arrive at the restaurant around 1pm in the afternoon. Service doesn’t even begin until 5:30pm. That’s 4.5hrs where I am ordering wine and doing cellar work which includes lifting heavy boxes, auditing and sorting through hundreds of bins. Other tasks include changing pages in the wine list, setting up the dining room, administrative and computer work, and the list goes on… Lets put it this way, by 5pm my clothes aren’t as clean as they were when I walked in at 1pm. The part where we taste and sell fine wine in our dashing outfits is the
romantic part of being a sommelier. The reason we all got into it in the first place ;)
What are the 3 things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?
1) Wine key
2) Hair elastic
3) Chapstick
Three things a somm should never do or wear?
1) Keep the geek-out topics between somm’s and not directed towards guests. I assure you most diners don’t want the low-down on the soil types and microclimates that a particular wine came from.
1.5) Don’t wear perfume! I made this a half point because it gets mentioned so often but is SO important for a Somm to never do. We need to be able to smell the wine and not get it mixed up with some stinky perfume or cologne.
2) Don’t be pretentious. It’s a big turn-off for everyone. Somms should be focused on remaining humble. The world of wine is a world that very few people understand and can easily become intimidating. We are there to help make drinking wine fun and approachable.
3) If you’re a lady, please don’t show cleavage. Looks kind of tacky, no?
What wines on the list at the Osteria are really exciting you right now?
I’m loving the whites from the Alto Adige region. This is Italy’s most northerly wine region and a combination of German/Italian culture. Residents there are bilingual and many winemakers, like Kuenhof, Erste & Neue and Niedrist (some of my favorites) use more German varietals like Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer, Veltliner and Riesling. The wines tend to be pure, highly mineral, clean and fresh. For a country not yet known for their white wines, this is a region to try. They are also great food pairing wines.
What do you usually drink at the end of a shift, if anything?
Ha, right now, as I type, I am drinking that Niedrist Riesling I was just speaking of. But it’s usually a Manhattan.
If you want to watch Rachel school some dudes on how to order a bottle of wine on a first date, do it here. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

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Wine Wear Daily: The Rep Bag, Take 4

by whitney on August 5, 2012

The wine rep dudes keep bringing it! The latest stylin’ guy? James Endicott of A.I. Selections.

James works for A.I. in NYC, but is spending a month out here on the West Coast while the wine biz is a little slow in the summer heat of the Big Apple. I love his waxed canvas (wine) bag! It’s very duck hunter meets Oxford student abroad in Tuscany. Yep- that’s what I said. He got it years ago at some tiny shop on Bleecker Street in Soho. Bonus: He’s got great shoes too! Oh yeah- and very good wine in his bag, of course.

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Lady Somm Style: Shebnem Ince

by whitney on July 17, 2012

Chi-town in the hizzy! Everyone, say hello to Chicago’s Shebnem Ince, Wine Director of Henri and The Gage, and one of Food & Wine’s Top Sommeliers of 2011. We have yet to meet, but I know that if ever we do,  she will most definitely make me laugh my ass off, paint my nails a shade of terroir and teach me a thing or two about Burgundy.

How did you become a sommelier?

“My Dad was in the wine industry and I grew up with wine all around me. Our halls were lined with Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cote-Rotie. And 1970′s vintages of Charles Heitz Martha’s. I was always obsessed with the various bottles and begged him to tell me about them all the time.”

What’s your daily uniform for work?

“Real boring. I wear the same thing every day, a black skirt, oxford blouse, black suit jacket, and black shoes with a low heel. No jewelry. Hair back (when it is long in a chignon, when it is short, with a head band). The conversation needs to be about wine so I try to appear as neutral as possible. I do sometimes write things on my hands with a sharpie marker (like a producer’s name, single vineyard I like, or vintages) just to be a punk. I do dye my hair a lot and grow it out long and then cut it. I also like wearing nail polish that corresponds to favorite terroirs; white for limestone, brown or grey for slate, blue for schiste. I have not found a good one for clay yet. Revlon TopSpeed makes some awesome colors and it dries super fast.”

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

“I leave ironed shirts and my work shoes at work; I bring in stockings and the suit. I change in the ‘ family bathroom’ which is a lockable bathroom with a baby changing table and a single commode. In the internal vernacular at The Gage and Henri, it is called ‘the condo’. It is not very well-ventilated and let’s just say it is the place where all the morning BOH staff tends to go and linger with magazines after their coffees. It is a stinky, stinky little room. Sometimes I hold my breath the whole time which is hard when you are trying to get into a pair of pantyhose. I do fear that one day I will pass out in there, half-naked with a pair of pantyhose at my knees and they will have to get the fire department to break the door down with an axe.”

What are the 3 things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?

“Lip gloss, wine key, pen. I like the Uniball Vision Elite pens best but they always get stolen from me.”

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1) Wear perfume. I know I realize this gets said a lot, but you’d be surprised at how many trade tastings you go to and people are bathed in applied scents.

2) Smoke. How the fuck can a somm smoke?

3) Wash with Gain laundry detergent and/or Bounce dryer sheets. I smell these things on clothes in elevators sometimes and feel like I am choking to death. Also, spraying Febreze is an affront to my existence, I cannot stand the smell of it. I do not believe those commercials when they lead people in to a dirty, garbage and old fish bones filled room and spray Febreze, and the people say it smells like a tropical island or a caramel candy. Bullshit!

Favorite wine on your list at Henri right now and what you usually drink at the end of a shift.

“I love Burgundy as much as one can love anything. After my shifts at Henri I go next door to our other restaurant, The Gage, and get a glass of Bourgogne Blanc, which I always have by the glass there. Right now we are pouring the Boyer Martenot 2010 and I have some Francois Carillon 2010 lined up when that runs out. If I were rich and had a house wine, it would be Freddy Mugnier‘s Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 1er Cru. It’s a perennial heartbreaker.”

Photo credit

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