Sommelier Jeff Morgenthal of Drago - Biography

Santa Monica, California

November 2011

A passion for all things European is not something that comes naturally from growing up Jewish in the suburbs of New York City. Jeff Morgenthal was not raised with the notion that wine and food in tandem was, for centuries, how people celebrated the daily pleasures of life. He learned this through experience. After college, Jeff went to Colorado and immersed himself in the limitless outdoors by becoming an avid cyclist and skier. It was his love of nature fostered during those years that gave Jeff an appreciation for the art of winemaking, farming and working without boundaries.

Jeff went to San Sebastian Spain in 1997 to race bicycles with the Basques and at that time came to the pivotal realization that Jews from New York are, in fact, not destined to ride the Tour de France. However, his love for restaurants and wine drew him to the Michelin 3-star Arzak Restaurante in San Sebastian. It was at Arzak that Jeff developed his love of service at the highest level and the role of the sommelier.

Jeff returned to Colorado soon after and managed wine programs in Vail, Colorado, until finally deciding to head west to California. Soon after, Jeff passed the Advanced Level of the US Court of Master Sommeliers and became chef/sommelier at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel as well as at Restaurant Gary Danko. Jeff recently placed 3rd at Best Sommelier in America in New York and recently sat the Master Sommelier diploma exam in San Francisco. Jeff is currently Wine Director for Drago in Santa Monica and is soon to be opening a wine bar with the owner, Celestino Drago, a native Sicilian.