Each year we put a call out to wine directors across the country, asking them to nominate the best new talent they’ve spotted working the floor in restaurants. They voted in eight up-and-coming sommeliers who all share a depth of wine knowledge, a warm presence with guests and the respect their colleagues. We’re pleased to introduce our Best New Sommeliers of 2016.
Meet Justin Timsit, a former fashion-industry sales representative based in California. Fast-forward three years, he’s now the incoming wine director at NYC’s Gramercy Tavern. After Timsit passed his Certified Sommelier exam with the top score, it dawned on him that wine might become more than just a hobby. He convinced the owner of a Beverly Hills restaurant to let him work the floor, and a month later, Timsit landed a job as wine director at The Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia.
Just being on the floor is part of my study time. I walk away from every guest thinking, what did I learn from that table? What can I do differently next time? I’ve never felt such purpose in my life; the urge to wake up every morning and start reading, because I’m so curious to learn why these wines taste the way they do.
Bringing Wine into Philly
I was like that annoying kid in the back seat poking you in the shoulder and saying, ‘I want this,’ and finally people started paying attention. It kind of felt like Pennsylvania got the leftovers from what was available in New York and New Jersey, and I didn’t want that.
Hope & Faith
The Marcel Lapierre 2011 Morgon Cuvée MMXII is one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not a particularly touted vintage, but if you ask Matthieu [whose father, Marcel, passed away the previous year], it’s a really special one to him. You can almost taste the hope and the faith in that bottle, the passing of the torch to the next generation. You’re not thinking, ‘Will this wine pair with my fish?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’m drinking a wine that this family put everything out there to produce.’ That’s what wine is all about for me.
photo of Justin Timsit by Mike Rush.
This article first appeared in W&S October 2016.