Best New Sommelier 2017

Katie Morton | Marta, NYC

We asked, and top sommeliers around the country answered with the names of the most talented newcomers to the restaurant scene. They singled out six sommeliers who are making a strong impression after fewer than four years as lead wine buyers.

What does it take to get a vote from the toughest of critics? Enthusiasm, tenacity, grace and professionalism, to start. Couple that with juggling other projects, long hours on the floor, the inevitable grunt work and furthering their own knowledge and educating others. Let us introduce you to our Best New Sommeliers of 2017.

Once a student of dance, Morton changed course at age sixteen after reading Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, and decided to become a cook. She headed to the Culinary Institute of America, but during her externships she felt like something was missing. “The front of the house seemed to have a greater opportunity to connect with people. And I saw that, with wine, I could learn about cultures and history, be intellectually challenged, and be more engaged and have a deeper sense of community.”

Following in the shoes of Jack Mason, MS, would be a challenge for any seasoned sommelier. Katie made it look easy. She has grown the idea of Marta as a destination restaurant for great wine and great service. — Jeff Porter, Del Posto, NYC
After graduating, she took a job as a food runner at Eleven Madison Park, where she met John Ragan, MS, Union Square Hospitality Group’s wine director. Two years later, she took him by the arm and proclaimed that she, too, wanted to be a Master Sommelier. She eventually joined the wine team at EMP in 2012, then helped open The NoMad, followed by two and a half years at Maialino.

Four months after she started at Maialino she had her wine “ah-ha” moment over a feast of roast rabbit and offal accompanied by a 1964 Mirafiore Barolo. “Who knew nebbiolo would change my life?” Morton is now the wine director at Marta, an Italian restaurant north of Madison Square Park focusing on Roman-style crackly-crusted pizzas. “My job is to show guests things they’ve never tried before. If someone’s world gets bigger by me introducing them to something new—hopefully something they like—for me that’s one of life’s pleasures.” She has also doubled the selection of Champagnes because, she says, Marta is about Champagne. “It’s great with pizza, as it’s salty and textural; some are bread-y or nutty with age, and they pair great with leavened pizza dough.”

Katie is a hospitalitarian to the bone! Not only does she have great wine knowledge and taste, she has intense service skills executed with polish and grace. — Nicole Hakli, Acme, NYC

This sommelier was featured in W&S October 2017.
photo by Mike Rush