What I Do: Alisha Blackwell-Calvert of Reeds American Table
Certified sommelier Alisha Blackwell-Calvert has a knack for navigation. She spends most of her time curating and guiding customers through Reeds American Table’s award-winning wine list, but on Saturdays, she squires tourists about town in a carriage drawn by a horse named Moose. Blackwell-Calvert recently left a promising career in beverage distribution to reenter the restaurant industry as Reeds’ beverage director, and she hasn’t looked back. Here, she shares how she spends her downtime, her thoughts on wine in a can and what she wants to be when she grows up.
“I am a science geek. I love geology; I love geography; I love culture. I had no idea that … in wine, you put all these things together. … The geography of the place and what the people are like and what they eat, and this is the wine that they make and because the sun hits this hill at a certain angle, the grapes taste this way. My mind was blown.”
“I took the entry-level sommelier exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers in Kansas City. I studied for months and months … and did very well. I felt very comfortable taking that test. After the test was over, and I got my little ‘You made it’ diploma, master sommelier Doug Frost leans over and says, ‘You should stick with this.’ … That was a big deal. It made my heart feel good.”
“It took me two weeks to think about [moving to Reeds]. I was very happy with Vintegrity and the hours and the flexibility. But I thought about my career and what I want to do when I grow up, if you will, and Alisha Blackwell-Calvert wants to be a master sommelier. It’s not something you can sign up for and it happens, but it’s what I want to work toward … and in order to do that, you need restaurant experience.”
“It’s not all glitz and glamour and slinging Dom. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I’m constantly tasting. It's a mountain of paperwork and spreadsheets. The fun part is hanging out on the floor trying to sell you a bottle, but there are hours and hours of work that go into making that moment happen for the guest.”
“Horses are my peaceful time, especially when I’m with my sweetheart, Moose. He’s so calm, and he’s so pretty, and he’s so friendly. We have a bond and a relationship that’s like no other. You can’t nuzzle up to a bottle of wine – or you could. I guess you could. It depends on what the wine is.”
“One thing I want to knock and can’t is wine from a can. I can’t knock it, I’ve had some good ones. They’re not all good, but the good ones are great. Friction makes really good wines in a can. … It’s like blueberry pie. I was like, ‘This is stupid – this is the worst idea ever,’ and then, ‘Aw crap, it’s good. Damn it.’”
“The typical-looking sommelier back in the day used to be the old white guy at the restaurant. Now it's the young white guy at the restaurant, and I am neither of those things. Especially when you get to the master sommelier level, there are not a lot of people who look like me. … I don’t fit some people’s thought of how I should be. I don't fit that stereotype or that mold. I don’t seek it out – I'm just me.”
Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.
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