Sommelier | Sidecut | Whistler, Canada

How long have you been a Sommelier? And What inspired you become a certified Sommelier?

I became a certified Sommelier in 2001 after a developing a strong interest in wine during my 8 year tenure at Whistler’s Araxi and was further inspired during my 1st trip to Napa Valley in 2000. I’m currently a WSET Diploma Candidate, Certified Spanish Educator and a member of the CSW (Society of Wine Educators).

What was your training like to become a Sommelier?

As a wine student you attempt to absorb every opportunity to taste, read, ask questions and experiment. It is an intensive period in one’s life, although an extremely fun “intensive”. To attain certification, you live, breath & drink for a 6 month period, attending classroom practical and theory once a week while studying 2-3 hours a day. You must pass a 4 component exam over a 2 day period that includes essays, blind tasting, service & multiple choice questions.

Which restaurants in the Whistler area have you worked as a Sommelier in the past?

Sommelier at Araxi & La Rua, both reputable long standing rooms in Whistler.

Which restaurant are you currently a Sommelier? And please describe your position in detail?

Wine Director/Sommelier & General Manager at SIDECUT – Modern Steak in the Four Seasons Resort Whistler

The restaurant opened this past June and features a modern steak concept which focuses on flavour through 1st class quality proteins augmented by 6 custom optional rubs & sauces. This goes hand in hand with my approach to wines of the world. I prefer wines of personality, distinction and character. Therefore, you can expect the list to evolve with an eye towards true quality expressions from unique regions along with “Blue Chip” examples of well known producers. That aside, my most important role here, and of paramount importance to me, is to lead the architecture of a strong wine culture within our team, one that will translate directly to the benefit of our guests.

As the list progresses to re-incarnation, one can expect to find a choice for all palates at all price points. However, confidence in selection is of principal importance whether I am recommending a label for my guest or they are selecting on their own. The label that makes it to the table will be one of integrity and purpose.

Was your interest in wine always your passion growing up?

I would say that I evolved into the wine world through initially, ownership of a restaurant on Vancouver Island. I began selecting labels for the small list and in turn exposed myself to tasting wine. However when I got to Araxi my interest exploded & I was hooked!

What is your favorite food paired with your favourite white wine? And which wine would that be?

1st of all Tofino is one of my favourite places on the planet & I have a long standing habit of sourcing fresh caught Dungeness Crab drawing a little melted butter and cracking a couple bottles of Viognier (think Craggy Range NZ, Alban CA or La Frenz BC)

What is your favorite food paired with your favourite red wine? And which wine would that be?

Let’s go with: Cornas (Northern Rhone) & Rack of Lamb…primal, rustic & bold!

How long have you been involved in the wine industry?

Seriously, 13 years

What do you most love about the wine industry?

Aside from the wine itself, the people who make the wine. It really is a unique industry in that it’s a different style of hospitality and warmth that comes through when you visit a winery, speak with a winemaker or walk a vineyard with the farmer. Wine is communal, it is meant to be shared, stories are told and memories created. Therefore there is a natural sense of sharing and pleasuring that comes through. I find that genuine and inspiring to everyday life.

Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?

John Schreiner (Canada’s premier wine writer), Shayne Bjornholm MS (Washington Wine Commision) & Barb Phillip (Canada’s only MW)

John: inspired me to embrace BC’s wineries in his 1st book

Shayne: as a peer, through his example I saw what is achievable though good old fashioned hard work

Barb: local girl who made it to the big dance, again inspired by the work ethic, passion and dedication to achieve

Where do like to go for wine travel?  Why?

Recently, New Zealand: what a dynamic wine industry with a great sense of individuality & quality. Think outside of Marlborough.

Next stop is Spain. I became a certified Spanish Wine Educator and want to see 1st hand.

Of course France & Italy is on the radar for obvious reasons.

What is your philosophy on food and wine?

Harmony! I am always seeking to achieve wine orgasm status with wine & food, as the ultimate pairing is unforgettable and obvious. However, it’s ok embrace and accept that either the wine alone was enhanced or the food alone was enhanced. You are not going to hit it out of the park every time, but it sure is fun trying. At the end of the day, I look to pairing dominant flavours and textures in both. And every vintage is a new opportunity!

What are the top wines we would find in your cellar or home collection?

Snap shot home: 96 Louis Jadot Meursault Genevrieres, 94 Phelps Insignia, 04 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin, 04 Paleo “Le Macciole”, Marquis de Grinon Petit Verdot

By: Richard Wolak