Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Sommelier Seth Roskind

June 2012

Katherine Sacks: What is your philosophy on wine and food?
Seth Roskind: I often find there is a real disconnect between what is going on in the kitchen and what is going out on the floor. Not just in wine but in beers and spirits as well. I think it is my job to take the chef’s philosophy and continue the thread, so that’s where it starts. Part of your job is to mold, to improve, and reflect what the chef would like to see you do. I’m a personal believer that you vote with your money, which is why I like to support small family wineries. I like to support people with a focus on being sustainable.

KS: What's your favorite wine resource?
SR: I don’t know if I have one anymore. For many years, it was the Sotheby’s companion. I still have mine, and that was the number one thing I used. It helped broaden my thoughts. It’s a good reference guide. Now I use the Internet all the time. We basically have a Bible for beers, wines, liquors, and I create pretty detailed notes for our staff to use. I’m convinced when people go out to dinner they love to learn at least one thing, so the further section is usually about the winery, the winemaker, or the region.

KS: What wines do you favor for your cellar at home?
SR: Cheap Spanish wine. I think that’s one of the tricks, you have to find wines that are inexpensive. It’s painful when you realize you pulled the $100 bottle out for a 1am meal when you could have pulled the $8 bottle that you liked just as much. As I change the list, I basically buy everything off my list that I didn’t sell through; I kind of get the best of both worlds.

KS: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you've learned from them?
SR: Tom Curtis, I worked for him for seven years when I was at Restaurant La Residence in Chapel Hill. He imparted ideas and general colors to my approach to wine. He and I built a wine list from a piece of paper to 400 wines. Through the course of seven years we tasted thousands of wines. Most of the rest was gleaning from chefs, Michael Touhy, Jay Swift, and listening to them talk about food.

KS: If you weren't a sommelier, what would you be doing?
SR: Well my dream job at one point was be to be a writer for Smithsonian or National Geographic. The idea for writing about elk herds in Scandinavia, and the next month writing about global warming intrigued me. At one point I was a good writer, but I hate doing re-writes.

KS: Which person in history would you most like to share a bottle of wine?
SR: Benjamin Franklin—a true polymath. He was a scientist, diplomat, musician, economist, athlete, philosopher, hedonist, and enjoyed French wines.

KS: What wine trends are you seeing in your city?
SR: Atlanta is growing up a lot. There are more and more wineries now than years ago. Just the ability of beverage directors to go out there and get higher-alcohol items. Because of the more archaic laws in some of these states some of the wineries wouldn’t ship us these wines. When the passed a new law, it was sort of a gateway, a tumbler, and now we are seeing a lot more interest in varied varietals. I’ve seen a nice interest in regions of Spain.