The SOMM Journal

August / September 2017

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Page 146 of 148

146 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 THE SIDE BAR IT'S FITTING THAT SOMMELIER Mary Allain would end up working at Bar Americain, the Midtown New York City restaurant owned by Bobby Flay, the award winning chef and TV personality arguably as comfortable onstage or in front of the camera as he is in the kitchen. After all, before diving into the wine game, Allain, a Virginia native, came to New York to study drama at Julliard with the full intention of spending a life in acting. Afterwards, restaurant work paid the bills while she worked towards that big break. "I'd been working in restaurants as a server for a number of years between, and often during, acting jobs, and I slowly was getting slowly more and more frustrated with acting and also realized I really loved my restaurant job," says Allain. Then she attained a management position, one perk of which was that they would help cover wine school, so Allain enrolled at American Sommelier and started classes. "I was hooked," she says, adding that her "Aha!" moment was more of an "Aha!" series of realizations. "I can't say it was any one thing, I feel like a lot of people can pinpoint one bottle that got them hooked, but I think for me it was a combination of the academic elements (history, geology, etc.) with the fast-paced analysis of blind tasting. Before I got into the arts I was a real academic nerd, so it felt like a good fit!" Allain, now certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers cur - rently spends most of her time at Bar Americain, Flay's popular "American brasserie," and does a shift per week at Gato, Flay's ode to Mediterranean cuisine. Bar Americain's menu covers a lot of bases, so the wine list must also. "Our list is international, focused but comprehensive. We sell a lot of new world and California wine, especially Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (Bar Americain has a fairly significant steak program), but we also have an impressive selection of Priorat, for example." There also some real gems. Current favorites include the Hewitson Old Garden Barossa Valley varietal Mourvèdre from dry-farmed, ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines planted in 1853, and a 2014 St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly. Wine regions on her radar include New York's Finger Lakes—and Bourgogne "for an upcoming trip." MARY ALLAIN, SOMMELIER AT BAR AMERICAIN AND GATO, NEW YORK CITY by David Ransom / photo by Doug Young Actress Turned Somm Mary Allain says . . . "I love finding guests something that they are really excited about and that they love, but the best for me is if I can somehow make the guest feel empowered." "I find the wine language barrier a continual challenge. I think we as wine professionals need to do a better job of helping people with the language of wine, not by preach- ing to them, but by explaining the correct terminology and descriptors." "I wish my hands were bigger. I don't really, but it would make the job easier."

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