The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 9 of 119

C M Y CM MY CY CMY K { editor's notebook } AS YOU KNOW, I AM A STRONG BELIEVER in peri- odic staff meetings. They are important to educate the waitstaff about the wine list, to suggest potential pair- ings with menu items and to encourage servers to be pro-active in selling wine. But the staff meeting is not the ultimate driving force for wine sales. These meetings which, by necessity, have to be held outside of service hours, can be dif- ficult to schedule and, thus, sporadic. Constant wine list changes and staff turnover can bring chaos to even a well-planned program. Keeping it all together and running smoothly requires constant vigilance on the part of the somm. Leaving wine instruction just to staff meetings is a formula for disaster. The somm needs to be "hands on" at all times. The effective somm is the quarterback of the service team. He/she must be alert to potential problems and opportunities. If a particular server is not carrying his/ her weight on the floor, it may require one-on-one dis- cussion—not a scolding, but quiet, helpful guidance on how to function more efficiently and provide customers with personal and useful choices. The front-of-the-house team is the engine that drives sales. It needs to be working at peak efficiency all the time. Keeping that engine tuned up and ready to per- form is the province of the general manager and the somm. In many cases those two jobs are performed by the same person. Being a somm is about loving wine and how it enhances food but, frankly, it's also very much about the bottom line. Keep the wine flowing and the rev- enues growing; it's a great tactic to assure job security. —Anthony Dias Blue There are over 3,000 wineries in California, and in Wines of California (Sterling Epicure, $24.95), "World Wine Guys" Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen provide a helpful guide that offers capsule descriptions of most of the important ones. The 582-page volume covers the highlights of Golden State winemaking, organized by region. Wines of California is cursory by necessity, but it covers the essence of its subject. The book opens with brief descrip- tions of the main grape varieties grown in California. Then we are in the heart of the book. Desimone and Jenssen introduce each region, profiling every appellation with useful information about each, such as acreage, varietal specialties and history. Each regional summary is followed by capsule portraits of its winery mainstays. The marquee names are there; off-the-beaten-path wineries are sometimes not. These omissions are understandable in a subject of such breadth. Wines of California by Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen is an up-to-date and well-researched portrait of today's California wine industry. This guide is as efficient as it is succinct, and every wine aficionado needs this book on his or her shelf at least as a reference jumping-off point. If whisky is more your speed, the all-new second edition of Dave Broom's The World Atlas of Whisky (Mitchell Beazley, $40) is the authorita- tive book on the subject. The book is exquisite from cover to cover. Neatly folded within is an insightfully narrated, visually meticulous catalog of whisky from around the world. Broom eschews the pompous voice and offers high-level information in a readable, personal style. He succeeds at not only systematically illuminating whisky by region—whiskies made from the same sites, particularly Scotches and bourbons, are help- fully grouped together in chapters—but Broom also introduces five approachable "flavor camps" to entirely demystify the appreciation of whisky. Expect to find complete tasting notes, outlining the nose, palate and finish of each dram. Stunning photography of distilling sites, producing towns, bottles and labels bring extra insight. Producers' locations aren't displayed as mere dots on a map, but rather designated with clear directions and vigilant notes to delineate town nuances, such as narrow streets, churches and other landmarks that surround them. The whisky brands that are included are important, and under- went a selective screening process so that Broom's exposition would amount to a well-rounded, comprehensive piece of work, which details every major whisky-producing nook in the world. This of course includes Scotland, Ireland, Japan, the USA, Canada, Central Europe and Scandinavia, South Africa, South America, India, the Far East and Australia. In case you miss a beat in the first 326 beautifully illustrated pages, the book rounds out nicely with a terrifically functional glossary. The World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom is state-of-the-art. THE READING ROOM A Somm's Duties 10 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014/2015 Being a somm is very much about the bottom line.

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