Best New Sommelier

Kaitlyn Caruke | Walnut Street Café, Philadelphia

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—fi ve 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.

“She’s a powerhouse, with a love of wine that is infectious. As soon as she hit Philadelphia, she was influential.” —Ray Gazdzinski, Vernick Food and Drink, Philadelphia

Kaitlyn Caruke landed in Brooklyn in January 2012 after graduating from the University of Vermont with a degree in nutrition and food science. While pursuing a secondary bachelor’s degree for dietetics, she picked up a restaurant job, as one does when trying to make it in NYC. After working for a year and a half at a Columbian restaurant in Brooklyn, she decided to go all in with hospitality. A chef-friend suggested she stop by Pearl & Ash, which sommeliers Patrick Cappiello and Kim Prokoshyn had made into a magnet for wine geeks. By September, Caruke was waiting tables there; by February, she’d made the wine team. Fast forward to 2017, when the Pearl & Ash team opened Walnut Street Café in Philadelphia, and Caruke grabbed the head sommelier position. Having been confined to only French and American wines at Pearl & Ash, Caruke is now exploring the globe via her 100-bottle list. Can’t commit to a bottle? She pours about half of her selection by the glass and offers anything under $150 in half-bottle format. —D.G.

Eureka Point
We did a family meal for Thanksgiving at Pearl & Ash and Kim [Prokoshyn] opened a magnum of Pépière Muscadet. I was like, ‘Is this what wine is supposed to taste like? Have I never had a good glass of wine before?’

Current Obsession
Mick Craven’s wines from Stellenbosch. I opened the restaurant pouring his Clairette Blanche by the glass, but I hadn’t been able to taste through his entire lineup until he visited last month. We pour his cinsault right now and I am just gaga for it: It’s light bodied, a little peppery, violet, kind of tart.

Long-Distance Relationships
I go up to New York a fair amount to see the Pearl & Ash crew. There is a group text between about 22 of us; it’s kind of ridiculous because it never stops. We do a wine tasting usually once a month: we give it a theme and spend the day together.

Philadelphia Wine Scene
There are defi nitely some heavy hitters here: Mariel Wega, who won this recognition a couple of years back, and Tim Kweeder, who has a reputation in Philly as being the city’s wine guy. It has been great joining them, among others, and widening the scope of what we do with wine in Philly.

This sommelier was featured in W&S October .
photo by Mike Rush