The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 38 of 119

{ }  39 about being esoteric but more interesting. Restaurant owners must understand the importance of investing in a person who can run a wine program for them in the same way they would invest in a chef to run the food side. Having someone dedicated to the wine program increases their return on investment. This person can train and educate waitstaff, making them invested in the wine program as well. Any up-and-coming sommeliers on your radar that excite you? Yes, I am very impressed with what Rachel Driver Specken is doing at City Winery. In a short period of time, she has become one of the most important young sommeliers in America. Her emphasis has been on education. She is moti - vating many to learn and be inspired about wine. Her efforts will have a ripple effect in the community that will be seen 20 years from now. Now that her roll has expanded to other cities beyond Chicago, her impact will be greater. What advice would you give to aspiring sommeliers? My advice to them is to understand that this is a business. You have to make yourself hirable. It is not just about blind tasting and knowing a lot—that is great and important—but aspiring sommeliers need to also know about the not- so-glamorous aspects of the job, such as cost control, numbers and inventory management. There are two types of sommeliers: one who is great on the floor, engaging guests, creating an experience for them. And the other is the one who is strongly suited for the operational aspects of the job. A great sommelier is the one that is able to combine both. How do you think the wine scene has changed since you first got into the industry? It has changed tremendously! The wine world today is much more diverse. The assortment available today is greater than ever. I remember reading and learning about wines that we would never see here—now it's different. Something else that has changed is the emergence of non-traditional, quality wine-producing areas within the United States such as Texas, Arizona, Michigan and New York. With availability come challenges—such as appropriately focusing a wine program. Availability allows a sommelier to build a wine list in accordance with the spirit of the food program. For example, at my newest, soon-to-open restaurant, Seven Lions, we will have an all-American focus. How would you describe your beverage program at The Boarding House? It's a global wine program. Prices on the list range from $38 up to $900. Tell me about staff education at The Boarding House. At The Boarding House, we have training once a week. We have a team that is hungry for knowledge and wants to grow. We take the time to invest in our staff and as a result we have had very little turnover during our first year. Have you noticed any particular wine trends? American wines! Today you can put together an internationally driven wine program with American-grown varieties. American wines have gone beyond Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, you can find somebody that is playing with Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Nebbiolo and Tempranillo. What has been the most challenging aspect of owning your own restaurant? Maintaining stamina and enthusiasm. It's important to enter the door every day with fresh eyes and a renewed enthusiasm. Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Master Sommelier and Chicago restaurateur Alpana Singh (left) with Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois Director of Wine Education and Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado. Alvarado received the Bill Rice distinguished 2005 Sommelier of the Year Award and in 2006 was included in Crain's Chicago Business Top 40 Under 40.

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