Good Morning Darlings,
Are you ready for Thanksgiving? We are kicking it very low key at our house tomorrow. Just Eric and me. I can’t wait.
If you are going out to eat or are looking for the right wine, let me introduce you to my friend, Joon, the sommelier at Kevin Rathbun Steak. He is so passionate about wine and he will steer you in the right direction.
That’s Joon to my left. He is the wine guru!
Q: Who was your biggest influence in deciding to become a sommelier?
A: My biggest influence is a gentleman by the name of Bob Stepic, my then-GM and sommelier at a little bistro I worked at called Park Cafe in Duluth, GA. I started as a server having just the very basic knowledge I had gained through a Dummies book on wine. I didn’t know how to go about becoming a sommelier and didn’t know anyone, having just moved to Atlanta from Kentucky. As time went, I expressed much interest in being a sommelier and knowing about the industry as a whole, service and beverage. I’ve had bosses in the industry prior to working at Park Cafe, but Bob was a true mentor to me. He was full of wisdom and just plain common sense. He was one of those who could put two and two together like no one can. Though not a certified sommelier himself, he planned a detailed path with a timeline as to when I would accomplish certain steps, that would lead to me becoming a professional sommelier with the certification that goes along with that. There was an atmosphere of accountability and without it, I couldn’t have stayed on track. Bob Stepic also introduced me to many industry professionals, namely people involved in education and distribution of wine. That in turn gave me the opportunity to network with other sommeliers in the city and around the country. My career, current place of employment, certifications, great people I’ve connected and have become friends with over the years, were all made possible either directly or indirectly, through Bob Stepic. It all started with him eight years ago.
Q: What do you believe is most diners’ misconceptions about consulting a sommelier at a fine restaurant?
A: Misconceptions of diners – I think more diners are comfortable now than ever before in approaching a sommelier for help in selecting wine. There are some though that still approach us with much apprehension mainly because of a fear that they’ll be looked down upon for either saying the wrong thing or just coming across as less experienced. One of my favorite movie scenes is from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris and his two friends go in to the fancy french restaurant that his father frequents, called Chez Quis. The stuck-up maitre’d gives a glare of disapproval the moment they walk in to the restaurant, given their youthful age and the way they’re dressed. Ferris didn’t know any better to make a reservation so he claimed to be the sausage king of Chicago and the maitre’d just scoffs at him. I think some diners still have that image of that maitre’d when they think of sommeliers. The truth is, we’re there to help you. We wouldn’t have jobs if it wasn’t for you asking for help. Some lists can be quite lengthy, we don’t want you to be lost in a sea of pages, robbing you of your time to enjoy with other guests. We curated the list and take pride in every bottle of wine that is offered, so as far as we’re concerned, you can’t make a bad decision!
Q: Why did you choose to become a sommelier?
A: Why did I choose to become a sommelier? I love wine as much as life itself. I feel that I’m called to do it. I feel that God smiles at me when I take time to hone in on my craft and cultivate the desire he placed in my heart. In particular, I love how historical traditions are so closely intertwined with the style of wine that is produced. Only when you gain a revelation of the history, the culture, and politics, can you truly understand why a wine from a certain country tastes like the way it does. I’ve had many “ahh” moments when tasting wine simply because I understood the historical and legislative context in which the wine was made. The topic of wine encompasses many disciplines and the amount of information is endless. It always keeps me striving… and humble.