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.
Introducing Mariel Wega, from Philadelphia’s a.kitchen + bar. Wega earned her wine chops at the Moore Brothers retail shop, just across the Jersey border. She absorbed the company’s focus on winemakers who work on a small scale, and she brought that ethos with her when she joined a.kitchen. She’s stocked the list with farmer juice from all over the globe, from Jura and Beaujolais to Sonoma and McLaren Vale, all at prices that are surprisingly friendly.
Rochester, New York, is where I grew up. My aunt had a small café called The Dutch Market. It was really a one-woman show. I helped her as a teenager and learned to cook, wait tables, a bit of everything. I really liked the fast-paced energy, and serving people.
The Spanish Renaissance
Right now I’m interested in what’s going on in Spain, having lived in Barcelona for a while [teaching English]. I’ve particularly got my eye on Laura Lorenzo. She’s in Ribeira Sacra, and has been making wine for about a decade but just struck out on her own, working with these old bush vines. She makes a palomino: It’s amazing, like Spanish Muscadet. And her reds are delicate, complex and interesting; they remind me of pinot noir, Beaujolais, things I really, really enjoy.
There’s a new Italian restaurant called A Mano; it’s a BYOB, and I love to go there on my day off, have a bottle of wine and a few bites. The chef [Townsend Wentz] also has Townsend, another Philly gem, more French-inspired.
photo of Mariel Wega by Mike Rush.
This article first appeared in W&S October 2016.