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definition of Sommelier
Andrew Bradbury

Interview with Andrew Bradbury
by Kylene Keith

Kylene Keith: You began your career in the restaurant industry at a very young age. After everything you were exposed to, what made you decide to go the sommelier route?

Andrew Bradbury: I have been in the restaurant business since the 7th grade. I have been a dishwasher, bus boy, cook, waiter and manager. I had an immediate attraction to wine from the start. There is so much to learn, so many wines to taste - it was the perfect path for me to explore. I have been able to travel and meet amazing people all over the world - it is a dream job. Once I got the bug, I could not stop the pursuit of knowledge in the field and drive to try as many wines as possible. The more I learn and experience, the more I realize how little I really know!

KK: The eWine Book, a hand held computer wine list, is really an exciting tool for the restaurant industry. How did you come up with the idea?

AB: I always have been fascinated by technology. In fact, I always considered wine my "job" and technology my "hobby". Many years ago while staring at my electronic organizer, I thought it would be cool to offer guests an electronic wine list with reviews and information about the producers to make wine both exciting and educational. I thought it would also help de-mystify wine and allow guests to explore new wines and regions with help from reviews, recommendations and information. I explored ebook technology for a few years but knew the best solution would be both internet-based and wireless. This year, with all the new software and hardware out on the market, I am in tech heaven!

KK: This new method of choosing a wine can make any wine novice feel like a wine pairing expert. How has this changed your role as a sommelier?

AB: I think in many ways it changes our roles very little. We still need to taste and choose wines for the restaurant and interact with our guests in the same fashion. I believe, however, that it forever changes the way we sell wine. I think of the wine list now as an "electronic wine journal". A sommelier can now offer an interactive, multi-media approach to the wine list. He or she can decide what wines to focus on, review (with tasting notes and wine pairing ideas) and promote. It also adds a marketing angle to the wine program and restaurant - you can highlight upcoming events and tastings as well as your own "eNews letter" to promote wine from the sommelier's perspective. I also find that guests are more open to ask questions and feel more proficient with the list. It actually has increased dialogue with the sommelier rather than replace the sommelier.

KK: How long do you think it will take for the eWine Book to storm the wine scene and revolutionize the restaurant industry?

AB: I think it is feasible right now for many restaurants; especially those who have large wine programs and are known for their collections. The prices for the tablet technologies and wireless capabilities are dropping significantly in the computer industry. This will allow restaurateurs to explore the many benefits that the system offers. I can say that after a year of experience with the system, I will never go back to paper lists again!

KK: It's obvious from your wine list that those formative years in Washington State have instilled a sense of loyalty to their wines. Give us a sense of what makes wines from the Evergreen State so special.

AB: Washington has been producing great wine and has so much potential in the future. It is a very young industry - many of the best vineyard sites have yet to be planted. Many of the top wineries (Andrew Will, Delille Cellars, Cadence, Quilceda Creek, Matthews, Dunham) are still learning about their vineyards and how best to manage them. With a longer growing season than California (more "hang" time) and cool evenings to help preserve the acidity levels in the grapes, they have a unique style to contrast other American wines. I find they offer ripe fruit and soft, even tannin levels that are very compelling. I also believe that Syrah will flourish and develop into one of the state's signature wines.

KK: I see you've traveled extensively throughout Germany and Austria, two regions that have reputations for producing particularly food-friendly wines. Do customers seem to be warming up to white wines from these countries?

AB: Yes, without a doubt I have seen increasing interest in the wines from Austria and Germany from my clientele. We offer them with all of our tasting menus and our sommeliers recommend them with many of our menu offerings. The response back has been extremely favorable. And let's face it - it can be tough selling these wines to Americans who are varietal or label driven and are confused by the wording on these labels. We have found the key is the keep it simple - talk about the wine's "style" and why it works with the dish. Also, with the increasing prices of domestic and imported wine, German and Austrian offer great value as well - always an easy sell!

KK: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have three wines, which would you bring?

AB:
White - German Riesling. My producer of choice - Muller-Catoir from the Pfalz region. Some of the most amazing and memorable wine experiences of my career are from this estate.

Red - Pinot Noir. My producer of choice - Henri Jayer from Burgundy, France. In my opinion, the most compelling and complex varietal in the world fashioned by the hands of a true genius - Jayer.

Sweet - Chenin Blanc. My producers of choice - Huet or Renou. Rippin' acidity, vivid fruit and a long & powerful finish are all the hallmarks of late-harvest Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. For me, the best way to finish off a great meal with good friends!

 

 

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