The SOMM Journal

December 2017 / January 2018

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34 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2017/2018 A.J. Ojeda-Pons Wine Director at The Lambs Club in New York, NY You've worked extensively with Geoffrey Zakarian the past few years to develop the wine program at The Lambs Club, and have even earned the restaurant a Wine Spectator Two Glass Award. What has been the most rewarding aspect of working as the Wine Director there? My greatest reward is my autonomy. I love being able to have the flexibility, creative power, and strength to push the wine lists forward to the next level. My wine lists are a reflection of my passion. In addition, what's more rewarding than being able to proudly represent every single wine I include on my lists? What are some of the most unexpectedly challenging aspects of working as a sommelier? As a wine director who still works on the floor as a sommelier, every day presents lots of challenges: operational, guest-related, cellar-wise. You could have that very last bottle of wine crash on the floor and break in front of your eyes, extract that crumbly cork, or saber every single bottle of champagne successfully. I think your attitude toward reacting to those challenges is what makes the job worth it! In addition to serving as the Wine Director of The Lambs Club, you're a WSET Advanced Sommelier and member of the Guild of Sommeliers. How did your passion and knowledge of wine begin? I suppose my love of wine was embedded in me since I was young, as my parents are wine lovers and my grandparents were, too. Growing up, there was always good wine around and really special bottles for special occasions. Later in life, as I grew in the world of restaurants, I became more passionate about it and that driving force has led me to where I am today. We've partnered with Chef's Roll and Somm's List, the global culinary and wine professional networks, to learn more about beverage experts from across the country. The Bottlest offers guests an extensive, well-rounded 300-bottle wine list. What are some of the specifics you look for in wines to include on that list? Every wine tells a story of place, varietal, vintage, and winemaker. The current list is cen- tered around library vintages from Santa Barbara County and celebrates the "liquid his- tory" of the region. Wines chosen for our list display a sense of place; I prefer producers with a hands-off approach to winemaking, allowing the grapes and the region to speak for themselves and tell the story. One of the space's most defining features is the "Wine Wall," where around 52 wines are dispensed in an automated, self-serve system. What are some wines available on the wall at the moment you're the most excited about? Bottlest is powered by Terravant Wine Company, which is the largest winery in Santa Barbara County. Many excellent wines are made here in our facility and are available on our Wine Wall. One that I am particularly excited about is an exceptional 2016 Santa Ynez Riesling under our Bottlest label. I am also introducing more wines from small, local producers to the wall—including a Grenache Blanc from Buscador, a boutique winery just down the street from us. What the most interesting bottle of wine you've had? Just recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy a 1998 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde. On the nose, it was fully developed with notes of dried apricots, dried cranber - ries, and smoked meat. The palate was soft, with mushrooms, dried blackberries, and a hint of white pepper. It was an excellent example of how beautiful bottle aging can be! Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Allison Crawford Sommelier at Bottlest in Buellton, CA 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 PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LAMBS CLUB PHOTO COURTESY OF BOTTLEST

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