definition of Sommelier

Warner StrejanWarner Strejan

According to Warner Strejan, there are two ways for a sommelier to approach wine. On the one hand, a sommelier can play the "expert witness", telling customers definitively what will best accompany their food. This can shape the customer's experience by limiting his or her choices. On the other hand, the sommelier can take on the responsibility of describing what sort of wine experience guests are most likely to have, depending upon which wine they choose. For instance, one wine might enhance a sauce's richness, while another might bring out its sweeter aspects. Unlike the first technique, this broadens the range of possibilites for a customer's choices.

It is Warner Strejan's aim to play the role of the latter sommelier, who offers broader choices. "Wine has no value in the bottle for me," he says. "The value is in matching the person to the bottle. Most people don't have a language for what they're looking for in a wine. I talk with them until I feel something click." He tries to give guests an idea of how different wines might influence the body and flavor of the dishes they have ordered, and attempts to reveal food as an art, through wines.

Strejan has worked in Manhattan as a sommelier at The Cub Room, Babbo and most recently at AZ. He is largely self taught, and started out as a waiter by reading wine labels and researching wines that interested him. Learning wines from the standpoint of a server taught him to tailor his technique to the customer and to provide a more personal approach. He also credits Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winners, Peter Sloane, Joe Bastianich and Dan Pearlman for giving him the opportunity to work with and learn about the amazing wines found on their wine lists.

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