I’ve always been envious (and, frankly, quite obsessed) with obsessives, those who find in one object or area of study a singular focus on which to pivot their lives. By extension, the sommelier, those masters of merlot and sauvignon savants, have always held a unique mystique for me. But what does it really mean to claim superiority over that most refined of refreshments? What, you may ask, separates a wine steward from a wino? A sommelier is a wine professional, normally engaged in supervising, selecting and curating the oenological offerings of a fine dining establishment. Although it’s a title any could potentially claim, the historical onus of the term dictates that one who assumes this position bring years of experience, training and even formal education to the role. Besides the requisite sharp and informed palate, a sommelier needs to maintain the professional demeanor, well-groomed appearance and genteel disposition necessary for anyone involved in the fine dining industry. An excellent sommelier not only conducts the restaurant’s wine selection but also engages individually with customers, explaining and anticipating the pairings and pours necessary to complete the eating experience. My own experiences with well-trained sommeliers was most akin to a guided tour, the steward taking diners and drinkers on a journey across multiple locations, at times while speaking with the passion and intimacy that separates wine stewards from tavern workers. Humble, yet informed; polite, yet firm in his or her convictions and expertise, a true sommelier is there to usher in a true wine-drinking adventure…so if you find yourself under the care of just such an expert, sit back, sniff, sip and enjoy!
Learn Your Wine
Fine Vintage LTD: Owned & operated by none other than “Master Of Wine” James Cluer, the courses here offer Miamians a chance to expand wine knowledge in a series of classically structured classes — running the gamut from beginner’s single day crash courses to rigorous high-level sommelier certification; FineVintageLTD.com.
U.S. Sommelier Assoc.: A vacation destination as fun as it is fundamental, the Lincoln Road campus offers a week-long immersion class sure to inform even the most studious of oenophiles, complete with blind tasting techniques, food and wine pairings, detailed analysis of wine by region and over 100 varieties to taste; USSommelier.com.
Schnebly Redland’s Winery: Hilariously mush-mouthed moniker aside, this popular winery offers a zesty South Florida accent to the traditionally arid ivory tower of wine production. Rated by TripAdvisor as one of the top 18 wineries in the country, their tropical tikified tasting room allows one to sample wines made from such regional ingredients as coconut, guava and avocado; SchneblyWinery.com.