Best New Sommelier 2016

Rachel Van Til | Mabel Grey, Hazel Park, MI

Each year we put a call out to wine directors across the country, asking them to nominate the best new talent they’ve spotted working the floor in restaurants. They voted in eight up-and-coming sommeliers who all share a depth of wine knowledge, a warm presence with guests and the respect their colleagues. We’re pleased to introduce our Best New Sommeliers of 2016.

Our first ever Best New Sommelier from Michigan, Rachel Van Til recently helped open Mabel Grey just outside of Detroit’s city limits in Hazel Park. She keeps the list tight and flexible to play with chef James Rigato’s changing menu, and always stocks bottles from the Great Lakes state.

100 yards

I couldn’t have fallen in love with wine without growing up next to it. The differences in vintage and terroir, all from vineyards I’ve been driving past my whole life: One hundred yards can mean a world of difference.

Local stars

Larry Mawby with sparkling wine; Left Foot Charley, an urban winery where Bryan Ulbrich works with farmers all over Leelanau County.  Sean O’Keefe at Mari Vineyards is working with Italian varieties, like lagrein, and makes an amazing sparkling grüner. Nathaniel Rose is making killer wines, including an orange wine from marsanne.

Brown Bagging

I did an experiment where I’d brown bag Kendall-Jackson chardonnay and pour it by the glass. It’s a well-made wine by great people, and it’s important to look at wines objectively. We called it HP Chardonnay [after the restaurant’s Hazel Park neighborhood]. Then I had the Cantina Sociale Cooperativa di Copertino 2008 Reserva, which just wasn’t selling. Chef mentioned it reminded him of the wine his grandfather made, so we called it Chef’s Dago Red and sold it like that for a month.

To read Rachel Van Til’s profile, click here to order the digital copy of the October issue or pick up a copy at your local Barnes & Noble bookstore.

This sommelier was featured in W&S October 2016.
photo by Joe Vaughn