How did you get into wine?
Backwards through environmentalism and philosophy. I studied philosophy in graduate school and wanted to reconnect so I planted a garden but soon realized I couldn't cook. Eventually, I focused on an environmentally centered grocery concept and began taking wine classes. I pushed as hard as I could and made my way from steakhouses in Washington, D.C. to being the beverage director at the two Michelin-starred restaurant "Commis" in Oakland.
And since then you have won the title of the "Best Sommelier USA 2022"! What kind of assessment process did this involve?
Every 3-4 years, the ASI (International Sommelier Association) holds a competition akin to the Olympics. Each member country holds a series of trials to determine who will represent it. The American trials this year began with 200 questions covering everything from Tanzanian banana beer to yeast metabolism to the classified growths of Bordeaux. The semi-finals involved an equally rigorous theory examination and a timed blind tasting exercise that requires not only describing and identifying the wines, but also recommending food pairings as well as service (glassware, temperature) and cellarmanship (likelihood to improve or hold in bottle, optimum drinking window) - all in 4 minutes!
What makes a good wine?
First and foremost, wine must taste good! And it ought to be farmed in a way that respects both the land and the people on it. A good wine has layers of flavor and can improve (at least a little) in the bottle - whether a few months, years, or even decades. These are my standards for quality in wine.
Are there any wine trends right now?
There are many: low- and no-alcohol, low sulfur, "clean" (whatever that one means) - and many more. There is concern that wine consumption is falling, yet "premiumization" continues: people drink less but better, somewhat pricier wine, and total revenue remains constant. From the ancient Greek oenohoos to the modern sommelier, our lineage and legacy is long and shows no signs of stopping.
At The Cloud One, we only serve wines made from sustainable U.S. vintages. What makes wines from the United States special?
The United States is a place of endless experimentation, equally unburdened and un-advantaged by centuries of winemaking tradition. Some of our greatest terroirs no doubt remain hidden, waiting for future generations to discover. This lends an air of excitement to American wine that is still unfolding.