Best New Sommelier 2018

Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou | Allora, Sacramento, CA

A good wine list is only part of the measure of a good sommelier. There’s also strength, speed, modesty and enthusiasm. So, when we asked sommeliers across the country to name the top new talent, we wanted to know: Who would you trust to take care of your friends? Who has turned you on to a new, memorable bottle?

Meet the Best New Sommeliers of 2018—five lead wine buyers with fewer than four years under their belts. Pay them a visit on your next outing in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or New York

“A daring and eclectic all ItalianGreek wine list.” —Kristy MacDonald, Per Se, NYC

When Elizabeth Mandalou isn’t taking care of the wine program at Allora in Sacramento, you might find her tap-dancing to hip-hop. The young restaurateur had been working her way to a career on Broadway when she got sidetracked by her job at Ella, in her hometown of Sacramento. There, sommelier Jeremy Reed inspired her to look at wine as a career path, and she joined him in studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Just this past summer, Mandalou passed her Advanced exam; and, in the last two years, she’s opened three restaurants—Woodlake Tavern, Uptown Pizza Kitchen and Allora, with her husband, chef Deneb Williams. Allora is her most wine-focused, her list filled with off-the-beaten-path selections of Italian and Greek wines and forging the way for other non-conventional wine programs in the city. —K.M.

Prime Destination
Greece, where my family is from. I have a dream that the air in Greece smells like assyrtiko.

Hard Truths
The fact that I’m not going to get it right one-hundred percent of the time. You can’t please everyone.

Daily Rewards
Introducing guests to new wines and watching their own ‘aha’ moments.

Best Advice
Be a forever student. As soon as you ever think you’ve got it, you’ve limited yourself.

After-Shift Drink
Lambrusco. We pour Barbolini Lambrusco di Sorbara by the glass. It’s not over-thought; it’s simply delicious.

This sommelier was featured in W&S October 2018.
photo by Rachel Valley