When I was in college at Emory University in Atlanta, a Ruby Tuesday restaurant opened nearby. A broke college student, I got a job there as a server.
I loved waiting tables. The place was full of energy, the people were fun, and I always went home with cash in my pocket. I was a good server, but there was one task I couldn’t do: open a bottle of wine at the table.
Not that Ruby Tuesday was exactly a wine-lover’s destination. In fact, having grown up in the South, I can say that there weren’t too many wine connoisseurs there. Even my parents tended to buy the cheap jug of white zinfandel (gasp!). Wine made no sense to me; it was a strange mystery, something I imagined only wealthy, pretentious people drank. And when a bartender handed me a wine key (as we servers called it) and showed me how to open a bottle, I said, “I can’t do that — you’re gonna have to open my bottles for me.” It was an awkward movement, and I was terrified of doing it wrong and offending a “wine snob.” Every time a customer ordered a bottle, I ran to the bartender for help.
When I moved West after college, I took server jobs at a variety of restaurants, and this wine problem came up more and more. I simply was terrified of opening a bottle of wine and all that came with it. But, fortunately, I also was learning to drink and appreciate wine, to stop being so intimidated by it, and to feel comfortable saying, “Yes, I can tell the difference between this cabernet and this merlot.” And the wine key started to feel quite comfortable in my hand.
Sacramento’s most highly decorated sommeliers, Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou and Keith Fergel, may know more about wine than anyone in the area, but the intimidation factor is something they’re hoping to change. In this annual Drinks issue of edible Sacramento, you’ll meet Mandalou and Fergel, who have both earned the prestigious Advanced Sommelier designation from the Court of Master Sommeliers. They share details about the rigorous training they’ve completed and how important it is to them that wine be approachable and enjoyable, regardless of its price or provenance.
You’ll also find drink tips for heating up your Valentine’s Day, and uncover the trend of creative cocktails sans alcohol. And you’ll meet Pachamama, the nation’s first coffee roaster and coffeehouse owned entirely by coffee farmers.
So pour yourself a glass of something and turn the page. Cheers!