The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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june 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  41 knowledge was less than stellar. My manager at the time was really cool about bringing wines to pre-shift and educating us every day through blind tasting. After studying the wine menu on my own time, I came to know it better than most of the servers. When I took my Level One Somm in Chicago, we went out to a fancy dinner, and I was nominated to choose the wine. I wanted to drink French Sauvignon Blanc, and in one of the more humbling moments of my life to that point, I proceeded to order Pouilly Fuissé (unsurprisingly, it did not taste like Sauvignon Blanc). Like most who pass Level One, it didn't take long to learn what I didn't know. Several months later, I met Bobby Stuckey, Master Sommelier, and he showed me that you can be successful and graceful, entertaining and educational all at the same time. He was a true hospitalitarian in every way. He was the personification of what I wanted to shoot for in my career, and it made me think big. What have been your biggest challenges along the way? Probably that I'm more excited about wine than some of my prior bosses and have to remind myself that no matter how nerdy you want to be, this is still a business. Also, when I failed my Certified Exam the first time taking it, it was a very humbling experience. I remember how that felt to this day. It's been my experience that most passionate professionals can trace it all back to one wine that changed everything. I call it their epiphany wine. What was yours? Early on, the cult Napa Cabs really turned me on. As my palate matured, it was Domaine Arlaud 1999 Gevrey- Chambertin Aux Combottes that really blew my mind and made me realize the potential of Burgundy. The St. Louis Somm Community is growing, but is still relatively small. Where do you see it going, and what role would you like to play in its growth? I feel I have a responsibility to play a role in the community here. I was welcomed by mentors like Brandon Kerne, Matt Dulle, Andrey Ivanov and others, and I owe a lot to them. I think that restaurateurs need to commit to embracing wine, and new sommeliers need to understand that you need to add value to the business, not just sell the things you like. If that can happen, then more restaurants will be willing to add higher-tier beverage positions that include wine. What's your approach to writing a wine list? The best word I can use is accessibil- ity. Wine has to be front and center, not hidden, and the wines have to be put in the right position on the wine menu so that people are more apt to try new things. For example, combin- ing Merlot and Cabernet on the list has led to people trying a wine that got a bad rap (Merlot). Running specials and offering samples of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner helps to take away the mystery. What is your favorite "aha" pairing? I can be totally at peace with sushi and single-vineyard dry Grand Cru– level European Riesling or German and Austrian whites. Sylvaner and sushi is just nuts! You work at Louie's Wine Dive. What is a "Wine Dive"? The entire concept is to make fine wine accessible and fun. We have actually been knocked in a review for not having boxed wine. I think they are missing the point. We love serious wines. We want them to be approachable, but that doesn't mean that we can't pour classified Bordeaux or Grüner Veltliner by the glass. We currently have a vintage Champagne by the glass. We're not flashy, but you can have an amazing wine experience without being intimidated. When preparing for an exam, do you prefer an academic or organic approach? I'd say a little bit of both, but it has been heavily academic. As I move forward in my career, creating lists, working in hospitality, critically tasting and visiting wineries are starting to take more of a roll. It's also important to remain humble and put in the time it takes to pass. There is no substitute for visiting wine country. What is your wine region "bucket list"? Germany. I love their wines and their history. It's like the history of Burgundy, but less crowded. There are places in the Rheingau where they have been making wine for over a thousand years. The vineyard designates and soil types, I think, are just cool. If you could give a younger Patrick Olds some advice, what would it be? I've been fortunate to move through the program at a fairly rapid pace, but if I could tell young Patrick some- thing, it would be that everything matters. All the details. Don't take anything for granted. Focus on today. You have mentioned remaining humble. Is that difficult? Not at all. The further I get in the somm program, the more humble I become thanks to my mentors that display it on a daily basis. Not many people ace these exams, so I've had to get used to failing, at times, and learn how to accept that and move past it—failing is part of the process but it is how you deal with it that determines the quality of somm that you become. "We have actually been knocked in a review for not having boxed wine. I think they are missing the point."

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