Persistence

I listened today.

“That’s all”, you ask?  Yes, that’s all I did.

And if asked of you, when was the first time you truly stopped your own thoughts to listen to someone else today? Have I already lost you?

WelI I listened to someone today. And I listened to someone tell me they were so sorry to disappoint me. And it all started with wine.

One day not too long ago I found mySelf in the fortune of a job offer to be a Sommelier. I met quite the human and fell in Love with building harmony and living wine. But I’m not here to reminisce, I’m here to figure out why someone so awesome would disappoint me for not passing an exam. I mean, I haven’t even tried to take this particular exam yet so how I am I the measure of appointing anything? I become even more humbled by such a beautiful creature that wants to nourish me while down, and I realize not defeated. This passion and complexity of strength is overwhelming on so many levels. The level that energizes me most is that of persistence to survive in the brightest light. And for this I will listen to someone every day. Truly listen…with all of me.

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The Case of Somm vs The People

The Layman’s Guide To Ordering Wine

By Kat Thomas

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I know the look. The head drops, eye contact is avoided and the body language starts to build a fortress around the wine list. This is my cue to tread gently. I smile, introduce myself as Kat the Wine Goddess, and let the table know that I am at their service for anything wine and/or spirits related. This is usually when the guest grasping the list timidly asks what my favorite food dishes are, which I gracefully acknowledge and help them navigate through. With trust built, the games begin.

Sometimes I’m called back to assist and other times they know what they want and I merely take the order. (Who am I to dissuade someone from ordering the—insert popular overpriced name here—when they’re both proud and adamant about it?) It’s a table’s moments of hesitation—or, pure eagerness to hear from the girl with the sword on her back and garter full of knives—that I get to expend my knowledge; perhaps, even, suggesting a wine more exciting or gently priced than what a table wanted originally.

(Please don’t misunderstand my intentions or work ethics, as I enjoy making the restaurant money and strive to do so. But I also have a partnership with my soul that is guided by intellect, passion and courage to speak my goddess mind when applicable. I can assure you that when you dine in my presence, I make every effort to hear what you’re hoping to taste and not make suggestions based solely on trends or my personal preferences.)

This partnership between restaurant and my soul is how I define myself as a sommelier, or in my world, the sommelier at Rose.Rabbit.Lie., located inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. But…what happens when I’m not there to serve and soothe wine-ordering nerves? Or better yet, what happens when you want to become the Wine God or Goddess of the moment? You don’t need my sword or my special wine pin to make that a reality. You need only what is in my head to be in yours. And since knowledge is power, here are some thoughts to help you, from my perspective, on how I assist a table (…but don’t tell everyone or I’ll be out of a job!).

Take Charge Of The Process

First step is to ask for the wine list, as no other act will better establish your role as Wine God or Goddess of your table. Don’t let that person who “knows wine” always pick, or you may end up spending too much for a wine you never wanted to know.

The next question I like to ask a table is, “White, red or both” (and remember: that includes sparkling wines). Often, the query is concomitant with pricing, so you then must establish boundaries, both high and low. For the best wine is not always the most expensive, and the least pricey may not always be the best value.

Once your table is at this point, the fun really begins. 

Interpreting Thy Wine List

Take your gaze to the Table of Contents. The wine list will typically be broken into categories of “body,” “region” and “variety.” Wine lists often travel through the styles of sparkling wines, into the whites, followed by reds, and end with sweet and dessert style wines. The flow is lightest to heaviest, so you’re already a step closer to picking even if you don’t know anything besides price and style. If someone wants a heavy red you’re move is to pick something listed toward the end of the reds than from among the first few.

Now: There will always be exceptions to this presentation, but most wine directors write the list to mirror a food menu progression: light to heavy.

 It’s All About Body…But What Does That Mean?

Let’s talk more of this body concept, shall we?

The body of wine reflects a vignette of variety, alcohol and many times the vintage. Body is what the wine feels like in your mouth. Do you want something light, rich or beautifully in between? In this instance I like to think of Goldilocks and her three porridge selections…with the wines not relative to porridge temperatures, but to how thin or thick each may have been because of what they were made with. Imagine for example, the lightest wine (or “coolest” and thinnest porridge) was made with, say, coconut water; the boldest wine (or “hottest” porridge) was made with a rich, non-GMO cream; and the third “just-right” porridge option, or in our case, that perfectly mid-road wine, was made with 2% organic milk. Ahhh, yes: Just right.

Now, you choose what body of wine you want for the particular experience: thin, rich or middle-of-the-road balanced. Want examples? Following my Goldilocks protocol, here we go:

Lighter-bodied “cool-porridge” wines.

For whites, there are the varieties I consider fun. To me these varieties are human and wallet-friendly and not common (to most drinkers) unless you’re a wine nerd or you’ve traveled to other regions of the planet and drank their wines. Try a Txakoli from Spain, Assyrtiko from Greece, or a Muscadet from France. For those more recognizable varieties, a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre or California, Pinot Grigio from Italy, and drier styles of German Riesling can make the moment just right. (Please note some Riesling can still be sweeter even though it’s considered “lighter.” They tend to have lower alcohol levels and feel more crisp and lively on the tongue.) If the list revolves around a specific cuisine, many a delicious Italian and Spanish white can fall into this category while staying committed to value pricing, as well.

The category of lighter red wine indicates both texture and color, as these wines come from grapes with thinner skins. Barring that a vineyard isn’t secretly trying to make a Syrah, the light-bodied Pinot Noir can come from all over the planet. France, the United States and New Zealand are producing some beautiful and reasonable wines. Other classic styles of light-bodied reds that I’d call “fun” include Gamay from France; Zweigelt from Austria; and Blaufränkisch from Germany.

Bold, full-bodied “hot-porridge” wines.

Next, these big-daddy wines are the easiest to find on the list because they’re almost always toward the ends of the variety selections. They also tend to cost a little more because of winemaking practices. Oaked Chardonnay from Burgundy, the Unites States and Australia are easy choices, as are Viognier, Rhone blends, and old Riesling from Austria and Germany. The reds are numerous. Bordeaux varietals live in this realm—Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Australia and the United States offer Grenache and Shiraz/Syrah, while Corvina from Italy and Zinfandel keep your teeth stained with love and alcohol.

Medium-bodied, “just-the-right-temp porridge” wines.

These can be a great compromise for when there’s debate over what to order; however, it does get tricky here in the middle. Chardonnay rests between the lines based on producer and where it’s grown. Medium-bodied Chardonnay is found in Chablis…though there are other regions that produce lower alcohol and higher-acid styles with the same mouth-feel. Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux or the United States can be quite pleasing in the middle realm without too much oak influence, thus providing mostly texture and weight. (And note to the Wine Gods and Goddesses: If ignored, oak can greatly alter the perception of food profiles, so pay it some attention.)

If you don’t want to worry about all of that, try something “fun” like Malagoussia from Greece; Chenin Blanc from France; Albariño from Spain; Arneis from Italy; and Grüner Veltliner from Austria, all of which are some great examples of ways to impress without stress.

Medium-bodied reds include Tempranillo from Spain; Carménère from Chile; Sangiovese from Italy; some Syrah from France; and Pinotage from South Africa. Some even consider Nebbiolo from Italy, though this style of wine can be known for ripping faces off regardless of its body, age, and price, so order with knowledge.

See? Variety is fun! Embrace the knowingness that no two wines are alike, but be aware they will exhibit qualities, or markers, that are shared. And when in doubt, remember to read the list lightest to heaviest. Or ask for the somm!

Where’s That Wine From Again?

Region can play an important role in a Wine God or Goddess’s decision, especially if you’re feeling adventurous; though the only rule of Old World vs. New World is that there are no rules except ones that establish historical winemaking boundaries and techniques.

Historically, Old World regions include France, Spain, Italy, Austria and Germany, while New World indicates the Americas, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. In the very recent past, Old World could indicate less concentration of fruit, higher acidity and lower alcohol. The thought was that warmer regions—those considered in the New World—would show higher levels of fruit concentration while Old World styles would play off the cold land and have a more intense fruit flavor profile. However, climate shifts, progressive winemaking practices and commercial sales expectations are intertwining Old and New.

Now you know.

Time To Rise and Order

Does any of this make a difference if you’re so serious about ordering that you’re not having fun and enjoying the wine? Sometimes, you just have to take charge and become the Wine God or Goddess to stifle the impending uneasiness of others who dislike making a decision more than you. And that brings me to the last and most important step in the wine-ordering experience: take chances.

Enjoy the moments, and ask for help (if you wish). I can be found most days at the most amazing restaurant, Rose.Rabbit.Lie., located on the second level of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. You’ll have no problem identifying me. I’ll be the one ready with my sword, my smile, and my unending willingness to toast life with a bottle that’s perfect for you…no matter who chooses it, or how.

Kat Thomas is the Sommelier at Rose.Rabbit.Lie, at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where for almost a year she’s been pouring to the delights of patrons. Known for her wit and way with a bottle and sword, her favorite wines are too many to mention; but the one that made her focus poignant was the 2006 Redigaffi Tua Rita (which also marked her first month of being a Somm on the floor in 2011). For Thomas, a successful night is one where she’s helped patrons feel bliss and comfort throughout the meal with food and wine pairings; porron pours; sabered anniversary bubbles; and most of all, serving up some Vintage Krug. Thomas is an Advanced Sommelier pursuing her master’s with the Court Of Master Sommeliers.

The Layman’s Guide To Ordering Wine.

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An Approach To Approachability

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An Approach To Approachability…Through The Wines of Tempranillo

It is often I find myself at the center of a conversation; of course one of the reasons for this is that I’m slightly narcissistic of my thoughts, but more so it is because I am a very approachable human. Did you ask how or why? I ask myself the same questions all the time. Here are some of the consistently pondered ones :

  •  is it because I’m a shorter human, therefore less intimidating for those carefully choosing to dominate me? (are they in for a treat with me then)
  • is it my smile, the big toothy one that can radiate energy and shift the room within a flash of it?
  • is it my eagerness to be ahead of the awkward curve?
  • could it be my boobs? (ok, ok that is just a funny one)
  • so then what is it about me that draws people to reach MY gaze and find and fill MY circle of energy?

Let me try to expand my understanding, and hopefully yours, by equating it to another lil’ temptress, the sassy, spicy Tempranillo grape.


Tempranillo can be so many things for those who enjoy it, dare I even say a “people pleaser”, but I prefer not to lessen it’s charm with such catch phrases, but it does do just that. It pleases; and not only for those who know it well, but also for those who do not yet know of it’s approachability.

Not connecting with Tempranillo’s approachable nature would only happen under strict circumstances; not knowing about the grape, never trying the grape, and never seeing this spicy, plump grape in action out of the bottle, especially from its native land, Spain. I have met the gaze of this variety, come into its blue energy and have found myself dominated by it’s charms. So now it is your turn.

Let me tempt you with Tempranillo and show you how approaching the approachable grape can turn you onto a new way of thinking and drinking.

First a lil’ history.

Proof of wine in ancient Spain was discovered in 1972, when archaeologists unearthed a mosaic of the wine god Bacchus at Baños de Valdearados in North-central Spain. Tempranillo may well have been the wine shown in the mosaic because it has been in Spain since 800 BC.
 Bad ass grape if you ask me!
It is the main grape on the plains in Spain and used for the regions of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Navarra. This thick-skinned grape has a tendency to ripen early, a name likely coming from the Spanish word temprana.

Unless aged for many years this wine tends to be medium-plus to full bodied with aromas & flavors of sweet & sour fruits. Strawberries, red cherries, dried plum, along with dried herbs, fresh tobacco, coconut, dill and leather. Tempranillo is often blended with other red grapes such as Garnacha and even Cabernet Sauvignon in the wines of Toro & Ribera del Duero.

Tempranillo(tem-prah-NEE-yo) : the most planted red variety in Spain, where it is known by countless other names locally. Tinto del País, Tinto Fino, Cencibel – nearly every region has a different name for

it. It is indigenous to Spain, and it is the primary grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, two of Spain’s top red wine DOs(Designation of Origin)

  • art/Sweet Red Fruit – Red Cherry, Strawberry, Red Currant, Sour Asian Plum, Dried Plum
  • Red & Purple Dried Flowers – red rose, pink rose, lavender
  • Sweet Tobacco, Dill , Sweet/Sour Sauce, Iodine, Dried Leather, Sage, Tomato Leaf, Spice, Baked Earth, Clay , Cedar; Coconut & Dill if aged in American Oak
  • firm tannins
  • bright acidity
  • loves oak, both American and French

A beautifully versatile grape that can produce crisp, fruity Rosado(rosé) and Joven(young) wines, easy drinkers named Crianza, big-daddy beasts with high concentration and flavor, and finally, dusty, traditional, oxidative reserva and gran reserva styles(wines aged for 4 & 5 years respectively). This is one eager to please, VERY approachable variety, and not just to have in the glass to quench the thirst but as a perfect food pairing on the palate. Here are some suggestions my friends.

  • When you want a quaffable wine choose the rosado or joven. Let sweet and sour strawberries and tart cherries tease the tongue. If you must have the food then try goat cheese and fresh fruits, sashimi, grilled veggies, and bar-b-que. But make sure you’ve bought or have been given the current vintage for these wines. Best when fresh! Even better when there’s a second bottle.
  • Crianza wines, those aged for only 2 years sing sweetly with their juicy, bright cherries, textured strawberries, soft violet florals, sweet chocolate and gentle vanilla tones.  These treats make a great pair for baked pasta dishes, roasted fish, curry,spicy delights, and creamy, dreamy cheeses.
  • Now for those big daddy wines that burst with intensity and power.  Dense, voluptuous red fruits and rich toasted vanilla wrapped around sweet tobacco, and clove. What a compliment for those foods that mirror the emotions of a well-seasoned, dynamic and dominant dish. Go big or put the glass down.
  • Now onto the elite Reserva and Gran Reserva. These wines hold the distinction of grace under barrel. With that age comes the seductive qualities of blackberries, dried reds, dried flowers, balsamic, and cocoa…I’m ready for my dinner now and a bottle of Marqués de Murrieta Castillo de Ygay Gran Reserva. So what should we have to eat? Lamb, braised meats, confits of fowl, hearty soups and stews, risotto, and PIZZA(ok pizza with them all)!

So there’s our approach to approachability with wine. How are you going to be approachable on the Planet? The great thing is you can be any way you want to be, just like our lil’ temptress Tempranillo. There are varying levels of how near or far you can allow yourself to be or others to be with you…the goal is to become approachable with YOU, all the varieties of you. It’s your time to shine and my time to go drink some wine!

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A Lil Love For The Day

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Taking a moment today to share love & bliss with you all. It’s too often we journey through the day without taking that breath of a moment to share our heartbeat with another, even if just in a passing smile or the chance glance of empathy. I know that I can use this most everyday and love to share when opportunity is offered; here’s my opportunity to share.

You are beautiful, creative, and full of wisdom. Thank you for shining on this Planet so i may understand my darkness!

Inside out

You will find me one day, delirious in my painting studio. I will be caked with fuchsia and burnt sienna. I will not have washed in days but roses will be growing from behind my ears. You will rush to bend to me, to inquire, and I will hold your face in my hands and whisper, “It’s my heart. Do you feel it too?”

 

How Wine Saved My Life

Whenever someone asks me why I like being a Somm I tell them this one noble truth:

”Wine saved my Life”

It is then the choice to dubiously laugh or peer at me with squinted eyes is made, as if to punish me for such a detrimental thought. But it did; and it is going to keep motivating me to become the little human I always hoped I could be. So much so as a small child lying in bed I would stay awake all night clenching my mind trying to make it happen with my imagination, and though I am still a very tiny person I have these wild and ambitious hopes to still do just that.

With each entry I intend to share with you the journey of persistence, courage, and patience. I will try to relate in more ways than some how I’m breaking the chains I’ve allowed to wrap tightly around me. How through my passion and career in this strange new world of wine I’ve come to appreciate my own raw honesty, and the coming of emotional age since beginning this career has enabled me to learn how to trust others and begin to let them get to know me. This is my connection to the Earth and as I allow my roots to finally grow and reach out your thoughts and acknowledgment will be my food, water, and sunlight to synthesize my learning and healing.

This is my sum of all parts. This will be my way to share how much more I am than just a Somm, and how this intense and fabulous profession has saved my Life!

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