Charlie Palmer Steakhouse | Washington DC
Sommelier Nadine Brown was born and raised along the sunny
shores of Jamaica and Puerto Rico, where drinks like rum and coffee
played an important part in the culture, but ironically for the
future sommelier, wine was almost absent. Before she caught the
wine bug, Brown’s calling took her to the mainland U.S. where
she earned a bachelors degree in social work at Wheelock College
in Boston, and went on to work with emotionally disturbed children
for several years. Brown moved south to Washington DC to take a
break from social work and began hostessing at Bistro Bis.
Brown found the energy on the floor addictive and never looked back,
learning front of the house from the ground up and working as hostess,
server, banquet captain, office manager and floor manager. It was
here that one of Brown’s first managers sparked an interest
in wine. After four years, Brown moved on to work at other venues,
including Signatures, Butterfield 9, 701 and Ten Penh.
While studying for her degree with the Wine and
Spirits Education Trust, Brown continued to gain practical experience,
attending tastings and seminars and reading anything and everything
she could on the subject. She became a student of the grape in its
historical context as well, studying the origins of wine dating
back to the Turks, Romans, and British, even taking a French class
at the USDA in order to assist her pronunciation.
Brown’s work with fine wine drew her to fine
foods, including one especially memorable meal at Charlie Palmer’s
Aureole in New York. When she heard news that Palmer was
opening a venue in DC, she didn’t hesitate to apply. At Charlie
Palmer Steakhouse, as one of only five women in the area to
run a wine program, Brown matches Bryan Voltaggio’s cuisine
with sophisticated American wines. Some of her favorite matches
including an inky Russian River Syrah with Voltaggio’s slow-braised
short ribs, and a sparkling rose with a simple, seared foie gras.
She enjoys the challenge of introducing patrons to the restaurant’s
high quality, all-American wines and veering guests whose preferences
lie with Old World wines towards an American bottle comparable in
quality and taste.
While continuing to pursue her Master Sommelier
Course and head up the wine program at Charlie Palmer Brown
seeks to share her knowledge with plans to record CD’s teaching
the pronunciation of wines, grapes, regions and more.
AB: Who do you consider to
be your greatest mentors?
NB: Jeffery Buben at Vidalia,
Ashook Ajar at 701, Gordon Leigh, formally of Bistro
Bis. Herb Kaplan, Josh Radigan, Dan Fisher, Cathal Armstrong
have all been influential as well.
AB: What courses
have you taken? Awards won?
NB: Currently, I’m involved
in both the Master of Wine and
Master Sommelier programs. I won the Rammy award for best
Wine and Beverage program and also received a Michael Bonnacorsi
Scholarship from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
AB: What is
your philosophy on wine and food?
NB: To make wine approachable.
To find a balance between traditionalism and innovation. To support
the people who
do this for the love of the juice, whose integrity comes through
in the glass. To have fun.
AB: Do you
favor Old World or New World wines? Why?
NB: Neither, that’s almost
a silly question. Life is about finding balance. It depends on my
mood, what I’m eating and what is available.
AB: Tell me
about a perfect wine and food match that you discovered.
NB: Pinot Noir based sparkling
and foie gras is great. I like Soter Estate, from Oregon. The acid
and earthiness in the Pinot cuts through the fat in the foie gras.
AB: What wines
do you favor for your cellar at home?
NB: German Riesling and anything
made by Ted Lemmon
AB: What are
your ultimate career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
NB: I would like to work in
Las Vegas at some point, because it seems like the closest I could
come to working on another planet. I would also like to open an
education-oriented wine shop and center.
back to top