The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2012

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Page 87 of 132

HOT PROPERTY His Place in the Sun T BRADLEY WASSERMAN FINDS SOLACE AT SOLAGE CALISTOGA hey say history repeats itself, but for Bradley Wasserman, history was merely the back story. "I set my sights for the restaurant industry while I was in college," says Wasserman, who spent ten years in Chicago honing his skills as a sommelier. Studying to become a high-school history teacher, he worked on-premise and formed study groups with fellow servers and somms in order to educate himself about wine. "I was driving the pack," he admits, claiming that he would motivate the group by coming up with themes: countries and varietals for instance, just to provide some organization for the continuation of his vinous knowledge. When it came to making the decision of teaching high- schoolers, Wasserman soon observed that students were not as interested in the subject as he was. "I knew I needed to head in a different direction. I would rather teach adults a subject they want to learn." But with the realization that wine possessed its own "amazing Solage Calistoga Sommelier/Beverage Manager, Bradley Wasserman. history," Wasserman pursued his dream not only of working with wine, but of living in wine country. "Wine's history parallels that of the world's," he says, and while he worked at some of Chicago's top venues, he figured that to experience viticultural realities, he would need to live among the people who were making it happen. His first job was in Napa Valley at Auberge du Soleil as assistant restaurant manager in July 2007, the same time that its sister property, Solage, was opening in Calistoga. A year later, he would be transferred to the lovely Solage, a quiet retreat that boasts greenery and solitude in a narrow valley. Overseeing Solbar, the property's modern farm-to-table dining spot, Wasserman presents a program featuring local wines that match with Chef Brandon Sharp's seasonal California soul food (or is it Sol food?). Sharp's Raleigh-Durham background guides his choices for ingredients. "He finds California to be the sweet spot of available produce and proteins," explains Wasserman. "It's not the most Cab-friendly cuisine," he adds, noting that while that varietal may be iconic to Napa Valley, "we have lots of wonderful local wineries that offer the perfect fit." Wasserman describes his ever-changing wine list as a "living document." It's a lot of work: He makes up a new menu two to three times a month. "But that's my job, to keep it interesting for locals and hotel guests. I am drawn to local producers with special projects, maybe an assistant winemaker who has no outlet to show off his or her venture. Here, I can put them on a platform to showcase their personal ambition." I guess you can call these burgeoning winemakers the teacher's pet, but in all truth, Wasserman has engaged himself as a mentor to the small producers, showing his good heart and, hopefully, making history. ─Meridith May july 2012 / the tasting panel / 87 PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY

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