Feature Story

30 Under 30: Eric Railsback | Sommelier, San Francisco

The daughter of a château owner. A sommelier. A golfer. The son of a photographer…There’s a lot of young talent in the wine business, coming from different directions. These 30 are rising to the top.

We canvassed our colleagues in the world of wine to find the most creative and accomplished young talent in wine today. All of them are 30 years old or younger; some of them make wine, while others sell it. All of them are names to know: This is the next generation in wine.


When Eric Railsback was still in high school, his older brother, a sommelier, introduced him to wine. “He got me into grüner and Chablis,” says Railsback. “My brother was giving me Raveneau when I was 18.” Away at college in Santa Barbara, Railsback landed a job at the Wine Cask. Since he had a full scholarship, he turned his paychecks into Burgundy—all this despite his parochial school’s stiff anti-alcohol policy. (At 19, he was hiding thousands of dollars’ worth of Burgundy under his dorm room bed.)

Railsback soon headed to Europe, dodging US alcohol laws to get a head start on his wine education. He worked at Knoll in Austria, where he met Rajat Parr and later, in 2007, worked the harvest at Domaine Dujac. By the time he got back to the States, he was finally 21—the legal age to begin working as a sommelier.

After a stint with Jared Heber at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, Parr lured him up to Michael Mina’s RN74 in San Francisco. Railsback started out working under Parr as a floor sommelier, but has now assumed responsibility for buying decisions, a significant role considering RN74’s ambitious wine program. Anchored by a treasure trove of old Burgundies, it includes verticals of DRC La Tâche and Comte de Vogüé Musigny stretching back to 1934. Despite the pedigree of the cellar, Railsback tries to avoid pretension at all costs. “We wear tennis shoes and try to stay pretty unassuming,” he says. “I always knew he had great potential,” says Parr, “but having seen him over the last two years, I don’t think anyone in the world is as good as him for how young he is.”


This feature appears in the print edition of Fall 2011.
Like what you just read? Subscribe now
.