2015 New York Rising Star Sommelier Grant Reynolds of Charlie Bird

2015 New York Rising Star Sommelier Grant Reynolds of Charlie Bird
February 2015

Charlie Bird
5 King Street
New York, NY 10012

Lake Placid may seem a ways from Piedmont. But for Grant Reynolds, all it took was a sip of ambition to bridge the gap. Reynolds began his career working in the restaurants of his Lake Placid hometown, but an early and deep-rooted love for wine took him first to Italy and, ultimately, to a career.

Reynolds lived in Piedmont for a year, eating and drinking in its culinary and wine cultures before returning home to study at the University of Colorado. But even in less-sun-kissed surroundings, Reynolds glowed with a love of wine. Still a student, he landed a job at Frasca Food and Wine, where he spent three years working the floor and training as a sommelier under wine greats Bobby Stuckey and Matt Mather. During his tenure, the Frasca team was nominated three times for “Outstanding Wine Service” by the James Beard Foundation.

By the time he graduated, Reynolds was ready for the next level in a big way, passing the Advanced Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers, working the harvest at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy, and even spending a few months at Noma in Copenhagen. Back in New York, Reynolds worked for Grand Cru Wine Consulting before joining the Charlie Bird team in February 2013, where the well travelled sommelier was promoted to wine director in less than a year.

Interview with New York Rising Star Sommelier Grant Reynolds of Charlie Bird

Mary Choi: How did you first get interested in wine?
Grant Reynolds:
I grew up in Lake Placid and worked in restaurants growing up. I was also lucky enough to travel a lot. I lived in Italy for a year and had jobs in restaurants all throughout college as well. I looked up to the wine people that I worked with during that time. While attending college in Boulder, Colorado, I took a job at Frasca Food and Wine and I learned a lot there. It's where I realized my knack for wine. That experience and having gone on self-funded wine trips really confirmed this path for me.

MC: What wine certification do you have?
I've passed the Advanced Sommelier Exam by the Court of Master Sommeliers, so as of right now I'm not pursuing the Master, just focusing on what we're doing here at Charlie Bird.

MC: Who has been your most influential mentor in your career?
I'd say I learned the most about work ethic from Bobby Stuckey at Frasca. He taught me about how he views the wine and hospitality world—that it's not all about knowledge, the key is to take care of people. To give people the best dining experience possible. Also, Robert Bohr has been amazing to work under.

MC: What made you move to New York?
I left Boulder in January 2013 because I wanted to grow and experience more in life. I had offers in London and Copenhagen, but I had roots here so I decided to come here to New York. Once I met Robert Bohr on my first day, I knew it was going to be a great opportunity.

MC: How would you describe your pairing philosophy?
I don't really have a specific philosophy, I just think people should drink what they like, pairing aside. I like to stick to regional pairings and to keep things simple. 

Wine Tips for Guests from New York Rising Star Sommelier Grant Reynolds of Charlie Bird

Serve wines at the right temperature. If you don’t have a wine cooler or cellar, put your red wines in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Also, pull your white wine out of the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 

Find a great wine store and stay loyal to them. When buying wine, it’s so important to have someone you trust, and that person needs to know your taste. This doesn't happen overnight. 

Buy birth year wine for your kids, and store it well. I have a few friends whose parents have done this. It’s special, occasionally can be incredibly profitable, and it starts you out on the right track from an early age.