A sommelier is someone you may not interact with every day. Most people don't know everything a sommelier does, let alone what makes a good one. William Lewis, sommelier at The Winery, said look for someone "who is well-rounded in food, wine, liquor, beer, cigars and service." If you haven't found yours yet, these are the sommeliers to follow.
William Lewis at The Winery
2647 Park Ave.
Tustin CA 92782
William Lewis is a top sommelier for a couple of reasons. He works closely with the chef to best match wines with the food on the menu. "We have things that match our menu specifically," he said. "If our chef changes a dish, I look for a wine to match it. I have him taste wines and see if he thinks they match the food. Think of wine, beer and spirits as liquid food and try to match it with the food on the plate. Add it all together and it makes one big flavor in your mouth." He credited years in the business and attention to any customer concern with his success. "I have the complete package of wine or beer, and cigars with food and I match them all together," he said.
Michael Jordan at The Ranch
1025 E. Ball Road
Anaheim CA 92805
When you Google sommelier Orange County, one name appears at the top of the list: Michael Jordan. He's one of only 118 master sommeliers, earning a reputation off of sheer volume year after year. For the summer wine list, Michael Jordan had more than 500 wines by the bottle and more than 80 wines by the glass. If you go to The Ranch and cannot find a wine to drink, it certainly is not the fault of the sommelier.
Independent contractor and educator
Shannon Latting considers the entire picture when pairing beverages and cigars with food, cracking open a bottle with her clients and getting down to business. "You want to look for weight comparisons," she said. "You don't want to put a light beverage with a heavy dish. Acid levels and texture come into play too. You want to match the texture and acidity of the beverage with the food." She even does pairings with teas and non-alcoholic beverages. She's approachable with years finding and pairing quality products in the service industry. "Now I'm reaching out to people who wouldn't normally talk about wine," she said. "I want to make people more conscious about wine and beverages so they can enjoy more diversity."
Independent wine consultant
Peter Neptune is a master sommelier with more than 30 years of experience in the field. He offers courses in wine education, but what really makes him one of the best sommeliers in the county is that, when restaurants want to create a good wine program, they consult him. It's paid off for a couple restaurants in the county. Neptune has created wine programs at The Crow Bar and Sapphire.
James Wall of Chapter One: The Modern Local
227 N. Broadway
Santa Ana CA 92701
Education imperative for sommeliers and few people have had a better education than James Wall. Don't expect him to be snobby about that. "Around here, wine is fun," he said. "It's not pretentious. We have fun with it. If you come in here and tell me what kind of beer or wine you like, I'll find something to pair with it.bWhat we're trained to trained to do is to pair perfectly your food and your beer or wine." He's worked under Barrie Larvin at the Rio, one of the top master sommeliers in the world. He's also worked Jean-Louis Paladin, one of the world's best chefs. Suffice it to say, Wall knows wine and food like you know microwave dinners.
Gary Schwind is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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