The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2017

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40  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2017 THE PROST! QUESTIONNAIRE S haron Coombs, Beverage Director at Craft Los Angeles—celebrity Chef Tom Colicchio's restaurant offer- ing farm-to-table American cuisine—might be soft-spoken, but she's as sharp as whip. Hailing from Arizona, she's starred in virtually every role the service industry has to offer and has been doing so since before she was even able to legally drink. (You can do that in Arizona.) Her wine program at Craft places emphasis on accessibility, which falls very much in line with Craft's simple yet refined American fare. BEVERAGE DIRECTOR, CRAFT LOS ANGELES by Jessie Birschbach / photo by Cal Bingham If you've never heard of the Proust Questionnaire, you've certainly heard of Inside the Actor's Studio; both of them try to get to the genuine nature of an individual with a series of personality revealing questions. Here, The Tasting Panel attempts to divulge the ethos of wine professionals through some pointed probing. Favorite wine descriptor? Salinity, because it brings to mind the aspect of a particular "terroir." Like an ocean fog settling on the grapes and/or vineyards planted on ancient sea beds full of oyster shells. Least favorite wine descriptor? When a wine is called feminine or masculine, because what it means to be feminine or masculine can mean so many different things. However, I'll catch myself using those terms because sometimes they translate better. Otherwise, dry would be one of my least favorite wine descriptors; it's often very confusing for those who don't under- stand what it really means. Which wine turns you on? Pinot Noir, which is sort of cliché, but I love that it can be sparkling, white or red. Pinot Noir Blanc is currently what I'm most excited about because it doesn't taste like anything else—not like Pinot Noir, not like Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris. It's a great pairing wine with our food here at Craft; it has a richness and a depth to it and it's not sweet. It's creamy but not buttery. It rarely sees oak, and even if it's made with oak, the oak doesn't come through as oaky. I find it to be very intriguing. It's my go-to pairing now. Which wine turns you off? Heavily oaked Chardonnays perhaps, but with the right food, the right people and the right setting, I think there's a place, a time and a reason for every wine. Which career would you like have other than in wine? In high school, I thought I was going to be a research scientist, but my financial aid ended up falling through. Now, if I was going to switch careers, I think I'd be an investigative accountant. I love solving puzzles. I'm good with spread- sheets, with numbers and dissecting/ analyzing reports. Follow the money! Favorite wine book? The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining [by Colleen Rush]. It helped me when I first got into working in fine dining, because I felt I was in way over my head as I hadn't grown up eating oysters or anything like that. Not only does the book have a great simple overview of wine, with little maps and some grape variety flavor profiles, but it also gives tons of information about restaurant etiquette and French food terms, tip- ping, etc. I use it even today as a training tool for my staff. If you were a wine, which wine would you be? I might actually be Chardonnay because depending on where I am or what I'm doing, or who I'm with or even the mood I am in, I can be very different. Sometimes I'm very quiet, reserved. Sometimes very boisterous. Is there a flaw that you tend to like in wine, if any? Although I do love a number of natural, rustic wines, flaws—like too much brettanomyces, pyrazines and others— distract from the true essence of what the grape and terroir could naturally show; it's like playing a great song WAY too loud and distorting the sound. What is a sound or noise that you love? My dog Tank makes this kind of half- moan, half-howl when the fire trucks go by. He's one of my four dogs total. What is a sound or noise that you hate? Clanking—when servers bang plates or bang glasses together; that's like nails on a chalkboard to me. Sharon Coombs,

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