As soon as sommeliers become Master Sommeliers, they often disappear from the dining room, moving on to positions with better hours and less box-hauling and bottle-schlepping up and down stairs. We like to keep track of the new talent, as they’re on the front lines and often lead us to our favorite new wines, from places and producers we’d never known before. So we canvas top sommeliers across the country, networking with wine directors at leading restaurants, members of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the young people aspiring to pass the MS exam. They’ve shared their votes on the most promising new professionals on the floor. With fewer than four years as lead wine buyers, two women and six men received the most acclaim from their peers. We’d like to introduce Wine & Spirits’ Best New Sommeliers of 2013.
When Grant Reynolds left to work harvest at Dujac, we didn’t have anyone ready to step up. Carlin is the first person we hired from outside to work with Matt Mather.” —Bobby Stuckey, MS
“If my mom made a sandwich, the mayo was from scratch,” says Carlin Karr. After graduating from the University of Colorado, she intended to go into public health, but detoured into the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco instead. That’s where she took her first wine class.
“I realized that wine was what I wanted to do for sure,” she says—so much so that she left culinary school and “started studying wine books like crazy—Jancis Robinson, Clive Coates, Hugh Johnson, Tom Stevenson…”
Taking day trips to Napa and Sonoma to visit producers, Karr set her sights on a job as a sommelier and happened to befriend another CU alum, Matt McNamara. It turned out that he and Teague Moriarty were opening a small place in San Francisco called Sons & Daughters, and, as she says, “They had about as little experience as I did.” They took a chance on her and hired her to run the wine program. The restaurant opened in 2010, and before she knew it, Karr was GM and wine director at a booked-up, Michelin-starred dining room.
Karr left Sons & Daughters in May of 2012 to take a job that would allow her to focus solely on wine. When she heard that Frasca in Boulder had an opening, she jumped at the opportunity to work with owner Bobby Stuckey, MS, who’s trained many a Master Sommelier in his day. “I came out to Frasca to interview and moved to Boulder three weeks later,” she says. She’s currently Frasca’s assistant wine director. In May, she passed her Advanced Sommelier exam on her first attempt. —Patrick Leveque
A 2004 Meursault. It was during my first wine class at the California Culinary Academy, and I was just amazed at how rich it was, while simultaneously retaining such great acidity. It was delicious and I wanted more.
In my opinion these are some of the best white wines of Italy. Ronco della Chiesa, an old-vine friulano from Borgo del Tiglio, is a benchmark wine for me. Grant Reynolds (former Frasca sommelier) and Matthew Mather (the wine director) blinded me on it the night that I signed my offer letter at Frasca. I was torn between calling it really great Premier Cru Chablis or really beautiful Kamptal grüner veltliner. It has intense minerality from the ponca soil of the Collio, and a savory, slightly bitter quality that I find extremely appealing.
Great sangiovese can also be transforming. It can be floral, feminine, savory, mushroomy, with a truly Mediterranean essence. Poggio di Sotto is my favorite Brunello—the 2005 is hard to beat right now. I love introducing a lover of Burgundy to a Brunello; when that guest returns and orders a Brunello, I know I have done my job.
A Brush with Rush
The other night the band Rush came in, and they are huge wine guys. We opened six vintages of Soldera—‘91, ‘94, ‘95, ‘02, ‘03 and ‘06. It’s inspiring to see how passionate people from all walks of life are about wine.
My favorite thing in the world is soft-shell crab. My mom and I actually would call each other when we would see them in the store: “They are here, go get them!” I would keep it simple, pan-fried with a little egg wash and flour and a squeeze of lemon. Paired with a Dauvissat Chablis. ■
This article first appeared in W&S October 2013.