The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 67 of 108

{ }  67 I have known Rajat Parr since 1999, when we both worked for Kimpton in San Francisco; I was at Postrio and he was at Fifth Floor. We used to taste wines late- night—and many of those blind—and I knew right away that his passion for wines was contagious. His career started at Rubicon, where one of his mentors, Larry Stone, was Wine Director and had a Grand Award wine program. It's not surprising that today Raj has three Grand Awards under his belt as Wine Director for the Michael Mina Group. We worked together once again when I was at MGM Las Vegas, where Mina had two restaurants and we did weekly wine training. When Raj would teach, the class was always full. As he says, "Staff training needs to be part of everyday curriculum" to ensure that everyone is up to speed on wine knowledge. Today we are meeting at RN74, Mina's Burgundy-inspired French restaurant in San Francisco, and it does not take long before the conversation turns to cooking. Raj went to culinary school, and still to this day one of the best meals I have ever had was an Indian dinner Raj cooked at the Millennium for a few of us. He humbly mentions that he and Michael Mina are doing a pop-up Indian restaurant called The Company, which will be like eating at some - one's house, with a killer cocktail program, lots of Riesling and Syrah. I am counting the minutes! About ten years ago, maybe from hanging out with legend - ar y Santa Barbara winemaker Jim Clendenen, he decided he wanted to make wine. He par tnered up with Sashi Moorman, and Parr Selections was his first label. Today they have three wines: Sandhi, Domaine de la Côte and Seven Springs. Raj travels all over the world to sell his wines, and he just got back from Europe, driving up from Santa Barbara to get right into La Paulée. I ask him how manages his time and the stress, because something is always happening and he always responds to all the requests he gets. "Playing squash and relaxing at the beach" grounds him he says. After the success of his book The Secret of the Sommelier, he is also working on a second book, The Atlas of Taste, together with co-author Jordan McKay. He wants to explain why classic wines taste the way they do. After seeing Raj's fairly quick rise to stardom, I ask him if he ever expected to be this famous in the wine industry. He says that he was embraced early on by the international wine community, and his job is to give back: "What I have learned is what I share." He will often be seen at wine events around the world, talking about his wines in Burgundy, Champagne or the Rhône. Maybe teaching a seminar on how to blind- taste. Don't challenge him to a blind taste- off, by the way—he will win! We move on to Calyx—yes, Raj made a gin! Master Distiller Steve Gertman came to Raj in Santa Barbara, and asked if he wanted to make a spirit, and Raj created the blend from smelling the botanicals. After nosing and tasting it, I can confirm that this organic, vintage-dated gin is stunning and unexpectedly great! Small-batch, small-pro - duction and made with unique botanicals like black cardamom, coriander, ginger and mint. Raj says it's what is in the glass that counts, and he drinks it with Fever-Tree Tonic. Calyx is allocated and sold around the country by Southern Wine & Spirits. Raj feels like it's his duty to give back what he has learned from his mentors Larry Stone, Michael Mina, Jim Clendenen and Daniel Johnnes and share his experiences. His father taught him early on that if you work hard and do everything with your heart, you will succeed. Not for money or success, but because you love it! I have known Raj over 15 years now, and I still feel that he is as passionate as he was when we first met. He's not ego-driven— and he did listen to his dad, because every - thing he does comes from his heart Kim Beto is Vice President of Key Accounts for Southern Wine & Spirits of Northern California. Raj Parr, Wine Director for the Michael Mina Group and a highly regarded vintner, just released a new gin, Calyx. Raj Parr's new Calyx Gin is allocated and sold around the country by Southern Wine & Spirits. RAJ PARR CREATES ALL HIS PROJECTS WITH HIS HEART photos by Hardy Wilson

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