Interview with Rising Star Sommelier Shaun Page

by Sean Kenniff
December 2016

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start in the industry? 
Shaun Page:
Early on; I caught the restaurant bug while working through school. I worked at really great restaurants and made really good money bartending along the way. In college, I studied marketing, but I was a police officer for two years and went into criminal justice, sorting guns and body parts. I made more money as bartender.

SK:When did you know wine was your calling? What made you want to study it?
I wasn’t brought up around wine and it fascinated me. I always wanted to know as much as I could. I want to be an asset to the chef, as the first people who come in contact with the guests. I didn’t have 30 years of work behind me. I couldn’t buy $100 bottles of wine. The more I learned, the more I knew what people were telling me was wrong. At business dinners they would tell you about wine. But then I’d find out it’s the opposite, white lies in the business that people gravitate to. I wanted to know the right information, and explain to guests what was accurate. 

SK: Do you have any mentors?
I’m mostly driven by my own madness. I’m very passionate.  The guest experience is the most important to me. People save up a lot of money to go out to eat and I respect that people need to get away from their everyday melodrama––crying at the dinner table is not uncommon at a casino.

SK: What’s been your biggest challenge? 
People laughed at me. They said it wasn’t going to work. They asked , “How are you going to do it? How are you going to split cases and three bottles of that?” You’d be surprised, when you work with passionate people. People are excited about getting wines that they want to drink into their hands. It’s the best wine list I’ve ever seen. Very popular, mainstream producers with a cult following that they don’t get. That’s exciting to me. Gives me passion and excitement. I treat all wines like my babies.

SK: How do you go about building your wine list?
It’s not about me. It’s not about Rhone, or Burgundy...It’s about our guests and playing to what they want. We have a lot of American wines. We have 15 pages of Napa wine. We keep stuff that’s incredible, [stuff that] resonates with the Midwestern palate. Big wines from Napa in the $50 to $1,000 range plays well with the consumer. We want people to leave happy and feel they got a bargain and something they truly love. We want to offer experiences that no one else can get. That plays into the mystique of the restaurant and excitement.