The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2016

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30  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2016 We've partnered with Chef's Roll & Somm's List, the global culinary and wine professional networks, to learn more about beverage experts from across the country. If you are a mixologist or wine professional interested in being featured here or want more information on Chef's Roll and Somm's List, please email ANIKA ELLISON, Sommelier at Spiaggia in Chicago, IL What was your inspiration for becoming a sommelier in regional Italian wines? After I graduated from college and moved back home to Chicago, I joined a wine-tasting club while continuing to work in restaurants. Because wine and food have always gone hand-in- hand for me, I've always been drawn to Italian food and wine, so through- out my career I've almost exclusively worked at Italian restaurants while continuing to expand my knowledge of Italian wines. It hadn't occurred to me to actively seek a sommelier position; I was actually encouraged to apply for my current job by my mentor, Cathy Mantuano, upon Spiaggia's latest renovation in 2014. Name some underrated or up-and-coming wine regions in the U.S. The Finger Lakes Region in New York has been putting out some quality white wines in recent years. Michigan wineries have been making some surprisingly structured wines as well (Chateau Grand Traverse). The most unexpected have been from Texas. AARON BENSON, Beverage Manager at Sixty Vines in Plano, TX At Sixty Vines you offer around 40 different varieties of wine on tap. Should we expect to see more places offering wine on tap? Most of our guests are looking for wines that offer freshness and an immediately pleasur- able drinking experience. Then you have the fact that younger drinkers are increasingly curious, knowledgeable, adventurous and environmentally conscious. The availability of all the wines by half glass empowers guests to try new things and experiment with food pairings, and it arms the service staff to deliver personalized experiences. In just six weeks, the volume of wine we've served from kegs has surpassed 8,000 bottles, and those bottles may have wound up in landfills whereas the kegs are returned and refilled. What is the most interesting bottle of wine you've ever had? I'll go with one I haven't had yet. I'm a big Syrah nerd, and my groom's cake was designed to taste like Syrah and look like a bottle of Guigal La Turque, with the 2015 vintage for our wedding date. The plan is to secure a bottle of 2015 to enjoy on a future anniversary. PHOTO: NICOLE WADDINGTON PHOTO: TAYLOR LONG NATASHA VELEZ WALKER, Bartender/Mixologist at Madam Geneva in New York, NY What is your favorite Latin drink to mix? Mojitos. (I know, I know!) But after making so many in my career (during a service when we looked at numbers, I discovered I had made 403 Mojitos that night!), I've real- ized that it really is a great drink. A Daiquiri with mint on the rocks—of course, it's going to be amazing! What was your favorite part about being a Bols Ambassador? The ability to share my passion for spirits with knowledge and support. You can support a bar that is doing charity work for a local cause and teach about the history of spirits (gin, specifically), distilling and taste. To me, the role of a brand ambassa- dor is very important because they give back to the community who are supporting their brands. PHOTO: NATASHA MUSTACHE

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