Sommelier Becky Swanson
Delfina | San Francisco
1. Take good notes
When tasting a wine for the first time I try to get as much information from the person pouring it as possible. I note everything from fermentation and aging to regional distinctions that may be interesting, and of course, any anecdotes or unique facts about the producer that may help personalize the wine for the staff and our guests. I can then easily tailor this information for the staff, giving them a small paragraph or two about the wine that covers the big picture.
2. Learn to love the Internet
Tech sheets are nice as are the marketing pamphlets we all receive from different wineries and distributors. The Internet, however, is the place to go to research producers and wines. Search engines turn up all sorts of maps, tasting notes, travel narratives, interviews and biographies that can help round out information on specific wines and producers. I include all of it in a binder that my staff can use as a reference.
3. Keep tasting
Everyone says this and everyone is right. The second you stop tasting is the moment you get out of touch with trends, vintages, varietals, hot tips on new producers and new dirt on old ones.
4. Dine out. A lot.
We all need to be reminded of what it's like to be on the other side of this business. I learn a lot by reading other restaurant's lists and paying attention to wine service (or the lack thereof). Great experiences inspire me and terrible ones prove to be priceless caveats. I ask the staff to keep their dining past in mind as well when on the floor.
5. Relax; it's wine!
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