Grape Expectations

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.

See the wine menu

How did you come to work with “The Cloud One”? 

Over the last years I realized that the climate catastrophe is a social issue - and everyone must do something about it.  That meant finding every possible way to make my programs more carbon conscious: reducing waste, prioritizing lighter bottles, more carbon-conscious shipping methods (there are importers now using sail to ship wines from Europe), and carbon capture farming in all of its forms - even in the spirits program by using perennial spirits (like Calvados) over more carbon-heavy annual spirits like Bourbon. This led to a few interviews pieces in local publications and, when I won Best Sommelier USA Sommelier competition in June of 2022, Cloud One found me by searching for American sommeliers with sustainability efforts. 

What distinguishes organic wine from conventional wine?

Organic wine is made without synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides.  An organic vineyard might use manure instead of petrol-based fertilizers, or use pheromones to fight insects instead of sprays. In the glass, studies have shown that organic and biodynamic wine scores higher when tasted blind, offers more long-term profitability for the people who grow it and sequesters carbon in the soil.  Every sip becomes part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. 

Was there a challenge to capture the lifestyle of a new hotel in a wine list? 

It is a rare pleasure to work with a company whose values align closely with your own.  The climate consciousness fostered by The Cloud One should be a part of our lives not just when we travel, but every day. 

Do you have a favorite wine on the menu? 

Many!  I especially love the work Analemma is doing with the Mencía but I also want to always draw attention to the visionary farming of people like Mimi Casteel, Steve Matthiasson, and Jason Haas. 

If New York were a wine - which would it be? 

Whatever wine it would be, it definitely would be energetic, capable of standing the test of time, versatile and bear the influence of many traditions and long history: a Riesling, perhaps? 


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