Interview with Sommelier Troy Kumalaa of Vintner Grill Las Vegas, NV

October 2011

Antoinette Bruno: How did you develop an interest in wine?
Troy Kumalaa: In Hawaii, where I grew up, we didn’t serve a lot of wine. I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14. I worked as bar back, then as bartender, then moved into wine.

AB: What is your fondest wine memory?
TK: Opening some great bottle of wine with a friend in Oregon. We opened up some old Burgundies; a ‘59 Jean-Jacques? It was special.

AB: Do you have any certifications?
TK: I am a Certified Sommelier.

AB: What is your philosophy on food and wine?
TK: You’ve got to have them both together; they compliment each other. Go with the wine region that the food is from. For me, I like a world-wide wine list, from South Africa to Greece. It's fun to select one wine from each region.

AB: Was the tasting New World or Old World centered or both?
TK: You have so many opportunities; you might as well experience everything. Matt [Silverman]'s menu is Mediterranean, so we did Spain, Italy, Greece, and California. There are so many wines that are amazing.

AB: What is your favorite wine?
TK: I do love Pinot Noir. I really love Pinot Noir from Sonoma. For producers, I like William Selyem and George, of course. Brogan Cellars is probably the premier wine maker. And I love Champagne, too…but I could go on and on. I’m fascinated by Loire valley. It's a region I really want to see—I can only imagine the food is just as amazing.

AB: What is your favorite wine reference?
TK: The Oxford Companion to Wine is a good one. But there are so many. For simplicity it's Kevin Zraly's book, Windows on the World Wine Course. I use it for training in staff.

AB: What’s a recent perfect food and wine match that you recently discovered?
TK: The last pairing I did [at your tasting]. It was Boar Bolognese and the Barbera d'Alba.

AB: What’s in your personal wine collection?
TK: I have about 800 wines at home; I have a full bar at home, also. I love making drinks, too. When I retire, I want my own bar. I'll go back home and own a bar on the beach [in Hawaii]. I also love sake. It's an upcoming thing and there are so many types. It's dry and goes with food. I haven't spent a lot of time with it and I’d like to.

AB: Who are your mentors?
TK: Luis DeSantos. We worked together for so long. He's a Master Sommelier. He was training me to be a Master Sommelier. I saw how much Luis studied and it made me not want to be a Master Sommelier. If I want to learn about Spanish wine instead of reading books, but I would rather just go there and learn about it. I'll just go there, but I can never go there through a book.