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Aug 23, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘sommelier’

The Scoop: Zac Adcox moves from Blood & Sand to Reeds American Table

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

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In just a few months, Zac Adcox has made a name for himself in the St. Louis wine world, helming the wine program as general manager of Blood & Sand. Now, the 22-year-old member of Sauce Ones To Watch class of 2017 is embarking on a new adventure as a sommelier at Reeds American Table.

After staging at Reeds to enhance his knowledge base, Adcox was offered a permanent gig in March. “I just wanted to learn from Andrey (Ivanov) and Alisha (Blackwell), and this situation just kind of organically happened,” he said.

Currently, he works the floor at Reeds on weekends, and during the week, he assists Blood & Sand’s Juliette Dottle as she transitions to her new role as general manager and wine director. Once Dottle sits for her Level 1 certified sommelier exam in early June, Adcox will move to Reed’s full time.

He said he’s excited to be able to focus primarily on the wine side of the business and continue working with the staff there. “Alisha and Andrey have boosted my confidence,” he said. “They’ve empowered me and made me more passionate. I really love working with them.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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Ones to Watch 2017: Zac Adcox of Blood & Sand

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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Title: General Manager, Blood & Sand
Age: 22
Why watch him: He’s a barely legal oenophile.

 
How to take over

Be young. Be bored with your scenery. After high school, move from Phoenix to Baltimore to live with your dad and stepmom. At night, sit around the kitchen table drinking wine with them because you have no friends.

Get a busboy job at a French bistro. Try foie gras for the first time paired with a glass of Sauternes. Freak out. Study wine every free moment you have, even though you’re still just a busboy. Get promoted to server and sell more wine than anyone in the restaurant.

While other kids your age are begging older siblings to buy them cases of Natural Light, loiter in liquor stores until employees notice you taking photos of wine labels. Approach friends, strangers – whoever will listen – with the picture of the next vintage and varietal you need to try and say, “Please buy this for me.” Do this for a year.

Consider it a big life event when a liquor store salesman lets you buy something without showing ID. Buy a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Take your girl to New York City for a fancy dinner. Realize no one is going to sell you wine, then bury your face in the wine book for a half-hour until a sommelier finally approaches the table.

Travel to St. Louis for the first time to take your certified sommelier exam. Celebrate your passing with dinner at Blood & Sand. Love the restaurant so much that you ask owner TJ Vytlacil if you can work there. Find out he just sold the place. Be persistent.

A few weeks later, move to St. Louis to work at Blood & Sand even though you’ve only been there once in your life. In three weeks, sell more bottles of wine than Vytlacil sold in the previous six months. Take over the front of house; run the wine program; be unstoppable.

Turn 22.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: St. Louis sommelier Brandon Kerne to depart Bar Italia for Texas

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

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Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5 p.m. July 30 to include comments from Bar Italia co-owner Mengesha Yohannes. 

 

When Brandon Kerne first took a job as a server after a brief stint at Monsanto, he was young and a little rudderless. Now, the industry greenhorn who blossomed into one of the most recognizable sommeliers in St. Louis is taking his talents to Houston’s Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.

Kerne announced Monday, July 27, that he is leaving his post as beverage director at Bar Italia for his new position as a sommelier on Sept. 1. “I have had the opportunity to work with some of the deepest, most exciting lists in town, and I have worked side by side with the best of the best in this city. I am very grateful,” he said via email.

Kerne began talks with Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in May, and the pieces soon fell into place. “Everything just made sense,” he said. “I am really pumped about tackling a 200-page wine list and returning to a list that covers the entirety of the wine world.”

Kerne, who has also worked with the wine programs at Olio, Elaia and 33 Wine Bar, developed an unorthodox system for Bar Italia’s wines that prioritized tasting notes and characteristics over the name and vintage of the wine itself. He is also among the handful of St. Louis sommeliers studying for the notoriously punishing master sommelier exam. Kerne said Pappas Bros. has graduated several master sommeliers, and he said the move to Houston was partly to continue preparation for the exam.

“I am actually moving directly into an apartment with two other advanced sommeliers (the certification tier immediately below master) in Houston,” he said.

Kerne acknowledged that leaving St. Louis behind will be bittersweet. “The Yohannes brothers are some of the most interesting, charismatic people I have worked for,” he said. “I’m still incredibly enthused about what we are accomplishing with my team at Bar Italia, and I look forward to watching them continue their growth from afar.”

Bar Italia co-owner Mengesha Yohannes said he was proud of his beverage director. “It’s not a loss, it’s a progression,” he said. “What (Brandon) does and what his cohorts do … is remarkably intense and dedicated. They are all ferocious. As soon as he got his advanced sommelier pin, it was clear this young man was headed places.”

Yohannes said he has a few replacements for Kerne in mind, but declined to name any specifically. For the moment, he’s hoping to continue Bar Italia’s run as a nucleus for top wine talent in St. Louis, even considering collaborative direction for the restaurant’s wine program.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Local sommelier takes top honors at national competition

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

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The awards keep coming for local somm phenom Andrey Ivanov, who took home the top prize at the highly regarded Chaine de Rotisseurs Young Sommeliers Competition in Santa Barbara, Calif., on May 15.

The two-day competition started with nine regional competitors, but only three, including Ivanov, moved on to the final rounds, which were held in front of an audience of 80 people including judges and fellow competitors.

“It is a big honor to bring the trophy back to St. Louis,” Ivanov said. “This was the last year I was eligible to compete, so it’s a nice way to go out. It opens the door for other St. Louis talent.”

Normally Ivanov would go on to compete at the international competition in Adelaide, Australia, but due to a recently added bylaw, the Chaine de Rotisseurs only allows first-time national winners to vie for top international honors. Ivanov tied for first with New York City sommelier Jane Lopes last year.

After departing Santa Barbara, Ivanov landed in Aspen, Colo., where he sat for the service and tasting portion of the Master Sommelier examination on Tuesday, May 19. Ivanov passed the service portion and will sit for the tasting examination in 2016.

“My goal for this year is to taste a lot of wine,” said Ivanov. “It’s a huge, huge, huge relief and weight off my shoulders to have passed the service portion. Next year, I just have to go into a room and dominate. I’m set up with a good tasting group here in St. Louis. We all know where we need to go and can help each other get there.”

Upon returning to St. Louis, Ivanov plans to put his experience to good use when he and Matt Daughaday open Reeds American Table in Maplewood this July.

 

 

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

The Scoop: Beverage director Patricia Wamhoff leaves The Restaurant at The Cheshire

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

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Patrons may notice a familiar face missing from The Restaurant at The Cheshire; beverage director Patricia Wamhoff left her position at the fine dining establishment about 10 days ago. “The best I can say is it was time to move on,” Wamhoff said.

Wamhoff had curated The Cheshire’s extensive wine lists since The Restaurant opened in November 2012. According to spokesperson Heather Strahorn, Lodging Hospitality Management president Steve O’Loughlin has no plans to replace Wamhoff at this time.

“Patricia has left to pursue other interests, and we wish her well,” O’Loughlin said in a statement. “We are thankful for her contributions and for the many awards she has earned creating the excellent wine program at The Cheshire.”

The certified advanced sommelier said while she does not yet know her next move, she has no intention to leave St. Louis. “Obviously I have a great love for the restaurant business and being on the floor, and I also have a great love for wine education,” Wamhoff said. “There’s a lot of really great creative things going on (in St. Louis), and the desire and passion to learn more about wine …  There’s lots to do here in St. Louis, and I’m really excited to be a part of that.”

 -photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Niche Food Group taps Chicago sommelier Aaron Sherman to head its beverage programs

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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Gerard Craft, owner of Niche Food Group and five-time James Beard award nominee, has enlisted new talent to direct the bar and wine programs at his four St. Louis restaurants. The Niche Food Group announced that Chicago sommelier Aaron Sherman has joined its team as beverage director for Niche, Taste by Niche, Pastaria and Brasserie by Niche. Sherman previously held positions as the sommelier at Stephanie Izard’s acclaimed Girl & The Goat, and wine steward at the former Avenues at The Peninsula Chicago, where he served as right hand to wine director Michael Muser.

“He’s just a super sharp guy,” Craft said. “That’s the first and foremost is that he’s an amazing human being. Very smart, very well spoken, definitely understands hospitality.” Craft said he met Sherman by happenstance at Pastaria earlier this year, where the sommelier and his wife were dining. After discovering they had mutual industry connections, Craft quickly created a position for the Sherman. “If somebody great crosses our path, we’re going to try and make room,” he said.

Coincidentally, Sherman was already in process of relocating to St. Louis. His wife Jelena Dirks, a classical musician, had recently accepted a position with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

The serendipitous timing was a boon to Matt McGuire, director of service for Niche Food Group, who has been juggling the management of all four restaurants’ beverage programs. “We’re really excited,” he said. “The timing of him coming to St. Louis and our need … I feel very fortunate to have him.”

Sherman took the helm of the Niche Food Group’s wine lists last week, and he aims to begin new scheduling for its varied beverage programs. The wine, beer and cocktail lists will be tailored to further reflect and complement the restaurants’ food menus, though Sherman was quick to stress that established programs, such as the cocktail menu at Taste, won’t be changed significantly.

“My goal is to make sure the whole package is at the right level of consistency,” Sherman said. “I don’t need to be cowboy: walk in, guns blazing and change the world. There’s nothing broken with the programs as they are. But when you start looking at the fine details you ask: What is good? What can be made better?”

Such improvements will largely be made to the wine lists, Sherman said, adding that he’s made an effort to acclimate himself before making any substantial modifications. “I have to flirt with the city a bit,” he said. “I have to get to know the people who are here. I don’t ever want them to walk in and have them say, ‘Oh, this is a Chicago list, just in St. Louis.’ ”

Though Sherman also began his career as a classical musician, he quickly pivoted to the food service industry and enjoyed a meteoric rise to sommelier positions in Chicago’s top restaurants.

“I had some incredible mentors, people who really helped me gain a great foundation,” he said. “Part of what I think I bring is a history of leading and guiding and education. I came to the restaurant industry sideways. (But) I understand how to communicate and talk about wine in a language people understand. When I’m on the floor, I don’t usually talk about the soil structure. I talk about cars and movies.”

Sherman also boasts a strong technical background in wine lore. He holds a diploma from the International Sommelier Guild and is a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. “My philosophy is that there’s amazing wine to be had at $30 or $3,000,” he said. “My goal with any wine program is to find wines that showcase a great value, beautiful craftsmanship and wines that people, frankly, like to drink.”

 

-photo by Alison Green

The Scoop: Andrey Ivanov ties for first in national Best Young Sommelier competition

Monday, May 5th, 2014

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A few good bottles are sure to be popped open when Andrey Ivanov arrives home. The general manager and wine director at Olio and Elaia tied for first place in the national Chaine des Rotisseurs’ Best Young Sommelier competition on Saturday, May 3 in California.

In March, The Scoop reported Ivanov qualified for both this event and the Guild of Sommeliers’ Top New Somm competition at the regional level, advancing him to last weekend’s national events. Ivanov tied with Jane Lopes, sommelier at Ristorante Morini in New York City, for the first place spot in the Best Young Sommelier category. The competitors’ regional qualifying scores were used as a tiebreaker; Lopes’ higher score earned her the title, but both still received first prize awards.

“This is a huge honor. It’s something that I’ve definitely been striving for for a few years, and the best part about it is to be able to come out to a competition (and be) surrounded by peers and friends you only see once or twice a year,” Ivanov said. “To compete against the best sommeliers in the country and to come out ahead is an incredible honor in itself.”

The competition was rigorous, Ivanov said, and consisted of three parts: a written theory exam, a blind tasting and service exam that included role-playing specific dining scenarios. This is Ivanov’s second consecutive year at the Best Young Sommelier competition and the first time a St. Louis-area sommelier has won the event.

“I’m more proud of that than anything else,” Ivanov said. “It’s the best place that most people have no been to yet. I’ve made it a point to stay and build my career in St. Louis because it’s a hidden gem. What we can do on the restaurant side of things and on the wine side of things… In our city, you can’t really ask for much more.”

 

 

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