As part of our back to school effort we have an assignment for some of our area chefs, bartenders and sommeliers: what I did on my summer vacation. As these reports are sent back to us we will share them with you. We noticed some are longer than others, and many will be loaded with photographs for extra points. – ed
To many the life of a Sommelier seems like a dream job. Meeting winemakers, traveling the world, and drinking wine all day sounds like a pretty cushy gig. However, when I can step away from 12-hour shifts, weekly inventories of enormous wine programs, orchestrating wine dinners while balancing Restaurant Week, and successfully stopping by every table on a 700-cover night they only thing I want is a beer.
However, in the off-season (aka when its 115 degrees outside) the restaurant scene tends to slow down a bit and we are able to travel! Summers are what Sommeliers long for.
This past summer I was able to discover the world of Pinot Noir through the eyes of winemakers in two of the most successful regions in the US. To the industry these trips are referred to as Pinot Camp where we as Campers done backpacks and rain boots and trek out into the vineyards at the light of dawn. This is followed by extensive early morning wine tasting and seminars held by the region’s leading winemakers. Of course all of this hard work and learning is paid off with elaborate dinners, late night karaoke, and bumping elbows with Merry Edwards admiring the sunset while sipping library Pinots.
My first trip was a four-day adventure to the Willamette Valley where (in my opinion) the most beautiful vineyards in the US exist. I stayed at the guesthouse of Chehalem Winery right in the center of the valley. As campers we were treated to local foods and drink such as Kumumoto oysters, Hood strawberries, Tillamook cheddar, Stumptown coffee, Dungeness crab and oh yeah wine!
The highlight of the trip was a traditional Northwestern Salmon bake at Stoller vineyards where all of the participating wineries brought out their big guns for the campers to enjoy. Think Jeroboam (4 liters) and Imperials (8 liters) of their tete de cuvees dating back to the late 1970s. We were literally tossing out wine over our shoulders into the grass because another amazing bottle was being passed around the table!
The second trip was to the equally impressive Russian River Valley in California. Again we campers woke up at the crack of dawn to meet the winemakers of Martinelli, Merry Edwards, Joseph Swan, and William Seylem to name a few. The highlight of this trip ended with a full blown Bacchanalia complete with gorgeous sunset at Twomey vineyards, live band, amazing food and of course togas!
So yes in the end it is pretty amazing to be a Sommelier. There are long nights of huffing cases upon cases of wine up and down ladders and stairwells, endless wine invoices, daunting TABC requirements, and blah blah blah. But it all pays off in the summer season with hands down the best perk of being a Somm; drinking wine, traveling the country, and meeting the creators of the wines we all know and love so much!