Best New Sommelier

Jhonel Faelnar | Atomix, NYC

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 genuinely warm and nice person who has excellent taste in wine. It’s that simple.” — Andrea Morris, Intersect by Lexus, NYC

Five years ago, Jhonel Faelnar gave up a career in Japan’s fashion industry to move to New York. Originally from Manila, he’d been swept up in the rise of wine culture in Japan and wanted to take his interest further. Without any experience under his belt, the closest he could come to a sommelier position was a gig as a barista at Amali, a Mediterranean restaurant with a strong wine list. He took the job, and meanwhile enrolled in the Intensive Sommelier Training program at the International Culinary Center. It wasn’t long before he passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier exam and began working with wine-industry luminaries such as Roger Dagorn, MS, at One Five Hospitality, and Thomas Pastuzak at The NoMad. (Full disclosure: Faelner also fit in a stint as an intern for this magazine.) Now he’s the wine director at Atomix, responsible for choosing wines to match the high-end Korean-influenced cuisine of celebrated restaurateurs Junghyun and Ellia Park. —R.D.T.

Current Obsession
Portugal. So many different styles, and they age so well. There’s a good amount of Portuguese wines on the list right now at Atomix because they work so well with food.

Clark Kent
It’s an underappreciated art, to be able to haul cases of wine and then appear on the floor looking good and calm and fresh.

Pay Off
When you hit that spot where there’s something you know they’re going to like and they have it and their face lights up as it works well with food.

Somm Homily
Be humble. Don’t use your knowledge to make people feel bad—whether it’s people you work with or people who are eating.

This sommelier was featured in W&S October .