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good sommelier in LA

Can anyone recommend a well-known/respected/expert sommelier in LA? Could be anywhere, but preferably in a nice restaurant. If you know they are nice as well and would be willing to answer a few questions, even better. Thanks!

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  1. The former sommalier and assistant sommalier from Campanile restaurant are the owners of the Silverlake Wine Store. They are a great resource, very nice and patient.


    1 Reply
    1. re: DanaB

      I second Silverlake wine. Ask for Randy.

    2. The sommelier at Norman's (think his name is Peter if I remember correctly) is fantastic. He's a nice helpful guy, who is always on the money with his recommendations. I may as well add a quick plug for their food too - one of the best restaurants in town.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nimo

        peter birmingham is one of the best. he knows the list inside out and can really match wine to food--something that's not terribly easy given the nature of the food at norman's.

        1. re: nimo

          Another recommendation for Peter Birmingham at Normans. He is amazing. One of the best (if not THE best) sommeliers in Los Angeles...he has many helpful and creative suggestions. Don't go to Norman's without enlisting his expertise.

        2. It sounds like either a) you have a general question or b) you have a specific bottle you'd like someone to take a sip from.
          For a) I'd suggest posting in the Wine board.
          If it's b), visiting the adequate wine store might be a lot easier and cheaper than a restaurant. But further advise would require knowing what type of bottle we're talking about.

          3 Replies
          1. re: RicRios

            It's more that I'm trying to find out about the job of sommelier for something I'm working on -- that's why I'd like to talk to someone who's nice and helpful and would be willing to share a few insights.

            1. re: jchaire

              Call Spago Beverly Hills, ask for their wine director Kevin O'Connor. Spago's phone : 310-385-0880

          2. Depending on where you are located... The Silverlake Wine Store is a great resource as is The Wine Country in Long Beach. Both have VERY well informed/educated staffs and they are very helpful.

            As far as restaurant Sommeliers are concerned. Eric at Patina is a certified Master Sommelier, and therefore has great wine knowledge and experience. Additionally The Napa Rose in Anaheim has over 40 certified Sommeliers on staff with several that are at the Advanced Sommelier level... the most in the world. They have a VERY extensive in house wine training program, and their GM, Michael Jordan is an extraordinary Sommelier as well. He teaches their extensive wine program at the restaurant.

            1 Reply
            1. re: woojink

              One other note about Eric at Patina - he was a runner up for the James Beard award for Sommeliers this past year. I believe he lost out the Sommelier at Aureole in Las Vegas.

            2. IMO, Melisse and Sona had the best sommelier. Very knowledgeable.

              1. I'll put in a vote for Dana, the sommelier at Cut; she is very knowledgeable and a very nice person. If you can buttonhole him, though, it would be well worthwhile to talk with Piero Selvaggio at Valentino about wine as he maintains one of the best wine lists in town and is quite passionate about it.

                1. Oh my, I'm quite opinionated on this one.
                  He may be young, but Drew at Providence is my absolute fav. He talks about wine with incredible expertise but sans the pretention. I never feel dense for not being in the know, only lucky to have him share his wisdom and suggestions. The pairings with Michael's tasting menus have always blown me away, and he truly cares about the satisfaction of every guest.

                  Peter at Norman's also rocks.


                  1. Mark at Sona has a assembelled a phenominal collection. I've been in the cellar with him and the bins are truely amazing. DRC, d'Yquem, Latour, LMHB/HB, Chave, Screagle, Colgin, Harlan, Marcassin, etc...If he has the time, he would be a good candidate. However, if you want the best and would consider venturing out of LA, Larry Stone, ex-sommelier at Rubicon in SF, now with Francis Ford Coppola's Niebaum-Coppola Winery. Specifically he is heading up Rubicon Estate-the high end brand. He set the bar.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Grog

                      "DRC, d'Yquem, Latour, LMHB/HB, Chave, Screagle, Colgin, Harlan, Marcassin, etc..."
                      All it takes to put a bunch of big names together is big pockets. You know you are standing in front of a great sommelier when he/she'll give you to taste bottles you never heard of, that'll knock your socks off.

                      1. re: RicRios

                        Dude - Everything takes money, but the bottom line in creating a great cellar is finding the best. Try sourcing 1928 d'YQuem, which Mark has. Point the direction to '85 DRC Montrachet please. Have you reviewed the list at Sona? Go and see for yourself what they are pouring, it's not just the big names and rare wines.

                        1. re: Grog

                          Zachys Wine Auctions, Thursday Nov 2 & Friday Nov 3, 2006.
                          Lot 1102, 1928 Yquem, $1400-$2200
                          Lot 770, 1985 DRC Montrachet, $1500-$2200

                          1. re: RicRios

                            Good find, but Zachy's provenence, especially on bottles of this nature, is at the very least questionable. The '28, and others, at Sona are from the Doris Duke collection. The provenence is as good as it gets, which as I'm sure you are aware, ie the key issue.

                    2. Reading these replies makes me realize how lucky we are to have so many great sommeliers in town. I'd add Caitlin at The Lodge. She's put together a wonderful, creative wine list at all different price points. And she's very knowledgeable and friendly.

                      1. go to the Red white and bluezz on raymond and green st in pasadena. ask for russ. you wont go wrong.

                        1. On top of some of the already suggested ones above, if the day is slow & he's around, the owner of Bin8945 is a great sommelier.

                          This reminds me of a recent LA Times article about Las Vegas trying to lure the best sommeliers there (Paying almost double of what they'd make in other cities, even though LV has lower cost of living), but I digress. Article is here if anyone's interested: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...


                          1. Lots of great suggestions on wine folks. Additional good Sommeliers can be found at Melisse and Spago. Have had exceptional wine service and discussion from both. And can one really have a wine discussion in LA without discussing Valentino? Piero Selvaggio has one of the finest wine lists around. DRC's from 80 years ago? No problem. Verticals of d'Yquem stretching for scores of years? Done. First Growth BDX from the 20s? Have seen them with my own eyes.

                            All that being said, I have to agree with the poster that said building a wine list and/or buying bottles is just one component of being a Sommelier. Provenance is indeed critical, but if one is at all tuned in to the auction market, getting proper provenance is not nearly as difficult as one would think. Buying the odd bottle or two from Zachys or Winebid may be a bit more risky, but estate auctions are much less so. As such, building the list with "the usual suspects" isn't as much an exercise in skill as it is in wallet.

                            All that being said, back to the Original Poster... Are you looking for a Sommelier to discuss or ask questions about being a Sommelier or to talk about wine? If you want to talk about wine, any number of the suggestions listed above can easily help. However, if you have curiousity about becoming a Sommelier or questions as it relates to the world of Sommeliers, I would really focus on speaking with Sommeliers that have been certified as Sommeliers by the Court of Master Sommeliers - the recognized organization of Sommelier training/education and certification. There are three basic levels of Certified Sommeliers... all of which require examinations of increasing intensity, difficulty and duration.

                            Certified Sommelier, Advanced Sommelier and Master Sommelier.

                            If the Original Poster has a question regarding becoming a Sommelier, definitely speak those Sommeliers who are at least at the Certified Sommelier level, but it would be highly recommended to seek out and speak with Advanced and Master Sommeliers. By the way, becoming a Master Sommelier is very much considered a Very Big Deal. It is a 4 day test given just once a year in one place, there are only 124 Master Sommeliers WORLDWIDE.

                            Please know that just because a restaurant gives somebody with great wine knowledge and passion the title of Sommelier, doesn't mean that they are, in fact, a Certified Sommelier. That doesn't mean they don't know or love wine, nor that that they won't give great service, just pointing out a key distinction.