Amanda McDougall: How did you develop an interest in wine?
Reno De Ranieri: It’s always been a part of my life. My parents drank wine with every dinner. We would dunk our bread in wine. My grandfather made wine and we still have his wine barrel!
AM: What is your fondest wine memory?
RR: Drinking Staggs Leap with a girl. We were sitting in the vineyard having a picnic with the blanket rolled out, and a guy came down the hill and yelled at us “what are you doing here?”
Oh, we're so sorry. We're just having a picnic. Do we need to leave?
No, no. Just relax, he says. Then he rambles back with a bottle of ’97 for us!
AM: Who are your mentors?
RR: I've been mentored by Marcus Sanchez and Kenny LaCour, the owner [of Cuvee].
AM: What is your philosophy on food and wine?
RR: To know that wine is meant to be shared and make memories. Right now, I'm trying to drink as much as I can to educate myself. Without the right people, you’re just sitting around drinking. And it's a good excuse to travel.
AM: Do you prefer more Old World or New World wines?
RR: Burgundies go well with the nuanced food we have [at Cuvee]; it's what I like to drink and what I know most about…though I grew up with California wine.
AM: What is your favorite wine?
RR: Salon Champagne—you should start every meal with a bottle of Champagne.
AM: Food and wine match that you recently discovered?
RR: Usually for a wickedly spicy gumbo it should be a dark beer paired, but I tried an Alsatian Riesling with it. I didn't know what it would do, but I tasted this Riesling with incredible acidity and not citrusy. The sheer novelty of it was great.
AM: What wines do you cellar at home?
RR: I'm poor. I don't collect much. Burgundy is my favorite—something with funk to it.
AM: If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing?
RR: Playing soccer.
AM: What person in history would you most like to share a bottle of wine with and what would you pour?
RR: My dad. I would pour Mendocino Pinot.
AM: What are your ultimate career goals?
RR: I have a few more years here and then to New York. I think New York is a right of passage in this industry. And then I want to have my own place.