BY JUSTIN HALL
Wine Director/Sommelier at Embers Wood Grill
What does a Sommelier actually do? How long have you been a Sommelier? What do you like best about it?
A Sommelier is generally a wine steward at a restaurant. Responsibilities include: wine ordering/ purchasing for the restaurant, storage, updating wine lists, training staff on all areas of beverage service and wine service during hours of operation. I like that the world of wine is always evolving and there is always something new to learn. I have been a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Masters of America since 2015.
What is your favorite white wine?
I get asked this question a lot and it’s always hard to narrow it down to one wine. I normally respond with the next wine that is in my glass. LOL. Generally, I prefer white wines that are more crisp and refreshing in style. White wines from Loire Valley, France normally fit the bill with Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre region being one of my favorite go-to whites to drink.
What is your favorite red wine?
Currently, I’m really enjoying Syrah from Northern Rhone, France. I’m a big fan of Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley, Oregon and Burgundy, France as they can be very complex and are very versatile to pair with food.
Is there anything to look for when buying wine without tasting it? (tips for buying good wine from the shelf)?
When tasting the wine before purchasing is NOT an option, I ask myself the following questions:
– Is it a classical varietal and is it from a classic region?
– Is the wine from a well-known producer with a history of producing great wines?
– Is it a good vintage?
Normally, if the answer is yes to at least one of these it’s a good safe bet. If the answer is yes to all, you could have an exceptional bottle of wine on your hands!
How long can you leave red wine out after opening before it goes bad?
Typically, the wine will drink the best the first couple days it is opened. Normally, 2-3 days tops. I recommend leaving it in the fridge after opening as it will help keep the wine longer.
What’s the best way to seal a wine after opening?
It’s best to seal with the cork if still intact or if it’s a stelvin closure, reseal with that. You can use a pump to suction out the air before resealing or use a device to pump argon gas to help preserve the wine longer.
What does it mean to aerate wine? Does it actually make a difference?
There are multiple ways to aerate a wine such as an aerator device, a decanter, wine glasses that are shaped differently to help open up the wine as well. Allowing oxygen to enter wine allows the wine bouquet and aromas to open. When the wine is sealed in a bottle all of those flavors have been trapped inside the bottle, so allowing air contact will open up the wine. Older vintage red wines and high quality red wines will benefit from air the most.
Why do some wines go better with certain foods?
Some wines go better with certain foods due to flavor and texture both in the food and wine interacting together. Oftentimes what grows together goes together so wines from a specific region will generally go well with its regional cuisine. Ideally, you don’t want the flavors in the wine to overpower the food and you don’t want the flavors in the food to overpower the wine.
Does it matter if you store wine on its side or standing up?
For long term aging, it’s best to lay the bottle of wine on its side to prevent the cork from drying out. If you store a wine for long term standing up, the cork will most likely dry out and will allow oxygen to enter the wine and cause the wine to become oxidized.
Do all wines get better with age? Or, do they actually go bad after a while, even when not opened?
Not all wines benefit from age! Some wines are best consumed within the first few years of release. Higher quality wines often will benefit from aging. It depends a lot on the grape varietal and quality level of the wine.
What are some MUST try wines that you can buy locally that you highly recommend?
I recently added a couple Spanish red wines from Lopez de Heredia, ‘Vina Tondonia’ Reserva 2008 and ‘Cubillo Crianza’ 2012. Both are the Tempranillo grape and drink exceptionally well. They have been making classic wine for over 144 years! I also find a ton of value in Spanish reds in general and you can often find an affordable single vineyard tempranillo in local wine shops that will over deliver.
I also think champagne and sparkling wine is often overlooked. Champagne and sparkling wines are a great starter wine before dinner and can be a refreshing alternative to drinking still wines.
One champagne producer I really enjoy is Ruinart Non-Vintage Blanc de Blancs. It is champagne made 100 percent from Chardonnay grapes.
For domestic sparkling wine, Schramsberg makes incredible sparkling wines made in the same methods used in champagne!
Is it bad to drink the last drop in a bottle? Or is there sediment at the end?
Some red wines will have sediment. If a winemaker chooses to not filter the wine and/or also red wines with age will develop sediment. If there is noticeable sediment then I prefer to not drink to the last drop. The sediment isn’t harmful to consume but it isn’t necessarily enjoyable to drink either!