Top Sommeliers on What’s Hot Now

Nominees for the 2010 Top Sommelier title identify today’s most in-demand wines, spirits and cocktails.


We caught up with 8 of the nominees for Top Sommelier of 2010, plus Master of Ceremonies and Master Sommelier Fred Dame, at the recent big award ceremony at San Francisco’s Hotel Monaco, and asked them to identify the hottest, most in-demand alcoholic beverages. (Note: Read about the competition and the winners in Yountville Takes Top Honors.) Here’s what they said.

Fred Dame M.S., VP, Heirloom Wine Group, President, Guild of Sommeliers: “Pinot Noir is still the bomb! I wish it would change; let’s give something else a chance. Also, Moscato is on fire.”

Eric Hastings, Beverage Manager, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, Houston, Texas. “In Houston, the hottest thing is vodka. Sixty percent of my liquor sales is vodka. For wine, it’s Napa Valley Cabernet. We’re the number one account in Texas for Darioush.”

Ian Cauble, Wine Director, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, California. “Spirits is gaining momentum, as a new generation of somms and mixologists moves the category forward: rum, Bourbon, Pisco, Calvados. And Chartreuse is hot—it creates this savory liqueur flavor.”

Inez Ribustello, Owner, On the Square, Tarboro, North Carolina. “What’s hot at On the Square is easily wine, from all over: Greece, Australia, South Africa, California.”

Michael Meagher, Chairman, Boston Sommelier Society, Boston, Massachusetts. “The hot beverage today is classic cocktails: Corpse Revivers, Blood and Sand, stuff like that. They go back 70, 80, 90 years. People knew what was happening then. What’s old is new—things come back.”

Chris Dillman, Sommelier, Sage American Bistro, Columbus, Ohio. “Our city just opened their first two micro-distilleries, so vodka and gin, locally-produced, are really hot. Chilled or stirred.”

Matthew Stamp, Sommelier, The French Laundry, Yountville, California. “We don’t sell spirits, and I have yet to sell a beer at French Laundry. People come to the restaurant looking for a wine experience. So, being in Napa, people desire the great wines of Napa Valley, or Bordeaux or Burgundy. Dagueneau is hot; also, Rayas, Beaucastel, and Shabumi Knoll  [Vineyard].”

Yannick Benjamin, Sommelier, Le Duc, New York, N.Y. “This being summer, it’s all about rosé. And crisp white wines, light fragrant reds. People are looking for quality, but also for value: Languedoc-Roussillon, South America. And Australia is making a comeback.”

Dustin Wilson, Sommelier, The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado. “Gin is getting really hot. There are lots of little distillers popping up all over the U.S. And I want to give a shout out to Leopold Brothers, in Denver. They’re one of my favorites right now. You can make great gin anywhere.”

Jason Heller, Redd Restaurant, Yountville, California. “Rivers Marie Pinot Noir, from the Sonoma Coast. In general, what’s popular at Redd is whoever’s pushing it, which is myself. Their wine is big. Everybody wants big these days.”


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Reader Comments:
Oct 25, 2010 01:41 pm
 Posted by  buckeyes

I am excited to hear that Columbus, OH has two new micro-distilleries and is embracing the artisan spirit trend. I recently went to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and fell in love with the world of artisan spirits and mixology. Also, remember Chris Dillman from many years ago. Went to a one of his classes when he was training for his Advanced Level of sommelier. Really knowledgeable man!



Oct 25, 2010 01:43 pm
 Posted by  buckeyes

Last year, I had the most amazing food & beverage experience at The French Laundry. But it was not because of the wine, it was because of the craft beer. My sommelier, Christopher Hoel, not only paid attention to every last detail when it came to my preferences in wine ... he also recognized that I was a beer connoisseur and paired 7 out of 9 courses with craft beer. It was truly THE BEST experience I have ever had in a restaurant to date.

I recently release my story about the dinner on



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