Interview with Sommelier Yves Sauboua of Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery – Sonoma County, CA

March 2004

Jim Clarke: You’ve been involved with training wine professionals since your time and London; are the standards rising, and how are consumers responding?
Yves Sauboua: The standard of wine service is rising year by year in the United States of America with more wine schools, professional wine-tastings, and improved wine-training in restaurants and hotels. The more we educated the employees of the restaurants and hotels the better it is for consumers. They feel comfortable asking for recommendations when they know the employees are well-trained.

JC: What is the Sommeliers’ Circle?
YJS: I was the founder and president of the Sommeliers’ Circle of Great Britain for 5 years (1994 – 1999). There were around 100 sommeliers in the circle and we met twice a month for wine-tastings with winemakers or owners of wineries from all around the world. Also we made 8 to 10 trips each year around European wine-producing countries. It was very educational and great way to meet new wine friends.

JC: How different is your work with Chalk Hill Estate compared to your previous work in restaurants?
YJS: Actually it is not so different than my previous work as a sommelier in restaurants. I do a lot of wine dinners around the country for consumers and wine professionals (over 45 dinners in 2003). It is also important to educate the consumers to make sure that the gap between wine professionals and consumers does not become too big. I focus more now on wines of Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery and talk about Sonoma Valley. I might taste less wines than I used to, but my sommelier friends always surprise me when I visit them.

JC: Do you ever feel limited working with only one producer instead of a range of international wines?
YJS: As I mentioned, I do travel a lot around the country and visit many sommeliers and wine professionals, so I make sure that I get to taste many different wines when I dine in their restaurants. Also, when I’m home, I always buy a few bottles of wines from different countries. If you don’t do that, your taste becomes more used to a certain style of wine and that’s dangerous because it becomes a “house taste” (a winery, the wine area where you live, etc.).

JC: What do you look for in wine service when you go out?
YJS: When I am paying for a bottle with a 250/300 % mark up - even more some times - I’m looking for knowledgeable staff, very good glassware (the right glass for the right grape), decantation when needed, and wines served at the right temperature.