Day 1: Bottom Lines, Coffee Cuppings, and a Bit of TerroirWine Director Olivier Flosse of MARC Restaurants – New York, NY
Wine Director Daniel Johnnes of The Dinex Group – New York, NY
Wine Director Emily Wines of Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group – San Francisco, CA
Restaurateur Joe Campanale of Dell’Anima – New York, NY
“We are living in a golden age of wine,” said Daniel Johnnes of Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group empire, explaining the ever-increasing variety of wines available today. And a golden touch is required to make a profit in that wine world if you expect to stay in business. Olivier Flosse and Emily Wines rounded out the conversation, moderated by Joe Campanale, who asked questions about their hiring requirements (passion, personality, dedication), and wine-list philosophies (accessible but let your buyers give the list some of their own personality). The bottom line though, is the bottom line. And these wine gurus shared true insight on the business of wine, displaying the excitement and passion that is still required to make the work fun.Sommelier Fred Dexheimer of Juiceman Consulting – New York, NY
Master Sommelier and Wine Consultant Fred Dexheimer pointed out the shot of espresso, glasses of Cava rosé and bourbon, and decadent chocolates in front of each attendee and promised, “Today, we’re going to get your seratonin levels spiked into the stratosphere.” Dexheimer explained how a colleague, Giuseppe Vacarrini, had cracked the code of pairing coffee not only with food but also with other liquids. The principles of balancing intensity, acidity, bitterness levels, aromas, and textures related to wine and food pairing and naturally captured Dexheimer’s imagination. Dexheimer shared his own inspired pairings (including his self-described “ménage à trois,” featuring floral Central American-East African Nespresso, milk chocolate, and Cava rosé). The audience was enraptured by the interplay between the coffee’s bouquet, the chocolate’s rich fattiness, and the berry notes in the Cava. Dexheimer pointed out the pronounced vanilla, malt, dried fruit, and spice flavors in a pairing of Woodford Reserve bourbon with the dark, South American Espresso Forte. Dexheimer sent attendees out with a buzz, both from the coffee and with excitement over the new possibilities in game-changing beverage program pairings.Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama – Hoboken, NJ
Sommelier Fred Dexheimer of Juiceman Consulting – New York, NY
A new wave of exciting food and wine is emerging from Chile, as demonstrated today by Chef Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer. Access to great produce, seafood, and sauce ingredients allows Chilean cuisine to be simple, but definitely not ordinary. Dexheimer’s wine selections not only complemented the food, but gave multiple views of the same dish. The Casas del Bosque “Pequenas Producciones” Sauvignon Blanc acted like a tart sauce for Presilla’s Corn Tamales with Basil, while the De Martino “Legado” Chardonnay highlighted the creamy, buttery texture of the corn. The Beef Empanadas paired with Gillmore Winery & Vineyards’ “Hacedor de Mundos” Carignan made the classic deep flavor of the merken pebre sauce sing, and the Matetic “Corralillo” Pinot Noir pushed up the spice of the pebre. Along the way, attendees learned tasting wine with chocolate requires a small bite, a little tongue-melt, and then a swish of the wine. Entire new combinations form in your mouth for a larger-than-the-components earth and fruit medley. And our favorite lesson: corn is a perfect palate cleanser. Presilla recommends bringing polenta to your next chocolate tasting, while Dexheimer would insist you bring a bottle of Carmenère.
Day 2: The First Wines, Natural Wines, and Wine BrandingLisa Granik, MW, of TastingWorks – Brooklyn, NY
Lisa Granik, MW gave the lowdown on wines of Georgia to a crowd of high-profile sommeliers on Monday, and led a tasting of the wide variety of wines made in this oldest of wine-making regions. The most popular and widely produced wines are made from Rkatsiteli (white) and Saperavi (red), ranging in style from fresh and modern to the ancient and traditional qvevri-produced, and include sweet and sparkling wines.
A bit of history explains why this wine is not more well-known, and why that's about to change. Until recently, most Georgian wine was either drunk locally or exported to Russia. This trade came to an end with the Prohibition of 1914 in Russia, but resumed briefly during Georgia's independence from Russia from 1918-1921. In the Soviet era, Georgian wine enjoyed a long renaissance due to Stalin’s love of qvevri juice, until 2006, when Putin's embargo of Georgian wine erased eighty per cent of their market. This embargo forced Georgian winemakers to seek export in Eastern Europe and expat communities in the U.S. The marketing effort continues today, and if the pairing choices in the 3rd Annual Somm Slam are any indication, Georgian wine has a bright future, which we intend to enjoy.Anthony Giglio of Wise Guy Wines – New York, NY
Marnie Old of Marnie Old Wines – Philadelphia, PA
“Wine cannot induce stress; it should relieve stress. If not, we are not doing our job,” said Marnie Old. Good enough for the consumer, but for sommeliers looking to build a brand for themselves, it can definitely be work. Sommelier Anthony Giglio (who’s been known to host 55 events for a single client and is renowned for his storytelling) and Old (known as the “Sesame Street of Adult Beverages” or “the lady in red,” depending on the audience and time of day) gave tips to ease the pain. First out of the gate, the obvious: don’t have the stereotypical exaggeratedly condescending sommelier attitude. Less obvious but equally important: remember the language level and remain coherent with guests, so they don’t feel stupid (it’s about them, not you). And, of course, know who you are—and who you aren’t, because your personality will guide success. If you need to use visuals and photographs to market yourself, like Old does, that’s who you are. If you are comfortable volunteering, than do it as much as possible—you’ll get experience. Most of all, however, spread the word. The beverage industry is small, and word of mouth goes a long way. Sommelier Paul Einbund of Frances – San Francisco, CA
Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier of Rouge Tomate – New York, NY
Pascaline Lepeltier and Paul Einbund led a spirited debate on natural wine, starting with the definition of natural, on which nobody can even decide. A selection of sparkling, red, and white wines ignited a few heated opinions from the audience, with some wines declared lively and delicious, others as completely undrinkable. “Nothing added, nothing taken away” seems to be the best starting point of a natural wine conversation, but that is hardly practical in an ever-changing landscape of climate, personal taste, and consumer popularity. Wine, it seems, follows the calculation for beauty: natural beauty (blemishes being charming) is preferred by some, a little makeup (artisanal crafting) by others, but generally, overdone plastic surgery (artificially inoculating yeast or chemical over-manipulation) is rarely preferred.
Day 3: Small Region, Big WineSommelier Michael Madrigale of Bar Boulud – New York, NY
Chef Damian Sansonetti of Bar Boulud – New York, NY
Somehow forgotten as one of the five noble grapes of France, Syrah finds one of its greatest expressions in Côte-Rôtie, as Michael Madrigale explained in the final (and packed) wine session of ICC. Sommeliers geeked out on granite and schist notes, while Madrigale explained the difference between Côte Blonde and Côte Brune, the two slopes of Côte-Rôtie: Côte Blonde is more feminine and approachable in style, while Côte Brune displays a more masculine side with a bit more structure.
A variety of grower-producer (Domaine Jamet, Rene Rostaing, Michel & Stephane Ogier) and merchant-producer (Chateau de Saint Cosme, Maison M. Chapoutier, E. Guigal) wines were enjoyed with samples of Damian Sansonetti's charcuterie. Not widely exported in the past, the wine of this small region in the northern Rhône Valley are labor intensive and generally small in production volume, but Madrigale cites these facts as reasons to search them out.
by Jeff Harding, Laura Curtis, and Giulianna Galiano