Best New Sommelier

Ryan Bailey | The NoMad, Los Angeles

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.

“Have you seen the Champagne List???” —Daniel Veit, Carbon Beach Club, Malibu

Thanks to a fake ID, Ryan Bailey started his wine studies early, frequenting tasting rooms in Sonoma, where he grew up. There he learned how they “spieled” their wines so that he could become a more effective server at The General’s Daughter. “When I turned 21, I moved to Sacramento, but on the weekends, I would head down to San Francisco and spend a good portion of my tips at RN74, drinking wine and asking Dustin Wilson and Raj Parr questions about wine.” In 2013, Bailey packed his life into three suitcases and ventured east to join the wine team at The NoMad in New York City. In his free time, he worked every event he could get invited to, from Barolofest to La Paulée, Burdigala and La Fête du Champagne. Saturday mornings were spent tasting with a group of top-level wine pros at Union Square Café. Soon NoMad’s wine director, Thomas Pastuzak, promoted Bailey to head sommelier; then he offered him the chance to become a wine director at the restaurant’s new Los Angeles outpost. Now Bailey is back on the West Coast, stocking The NoMad’s cellars in LA with all the grower Champagne he can get his hands on, as well as vintage wines he gleans from private cellars. —K.M.

Eureka Wine
The 2005 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Clos de la Maréchale. It was the first big bottle of Burgundy I ever bought, the first wine that was just a little bit too expensive. My context of pinot noir was from the Russian River Valley, so I was used to tasting pinots that were 14.5 percent alcohol.

Current Obsession
Champagne. There is an influx of producers who sold their fruit to larger houses in the past and are now making their own wines.

Biggest Challenge
The hours. People see you on the floor having fun, talking to guests, but for every hour on the floor, there are three spent doing inventory, taking care of invoices and answering emails.

Best Advice
If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life

This sommelier was featured in W&S October .
photo by Tony Garcia