Best New Sommelier 2017

Theo Lieberman | Compangie des Vin Surnaturels, 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.

Troll Theo Lieberman’s Instagram and you may notice the same three emojis in his captions: man with crossed arms, eggplant and spider. The string of characters starts to make sense when you see the back of his Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels t-shirt, which reads, “We are not here to fuck spiders.”

"Theo is, hands down, the most enthusiastic wine professional I know. He lives and breathes wine, but not for his own gain—rather for the benefit of his guests, friends and colleagues." — Todd Chatterton, Vaucluse, NYC
“It’s this phrase we have at work which means we are never there to just do a good job,” says Lieberman. “We are there to do the best job and not mess around.” Not surprising, coming from someone who has put in time as the head bartender at NYC’s Milk & Honey, Lantern’s Keep and Eleven Madison Park.

For Lieberman, the switch flipped from cocktails to wine while opening high-end airport wine bars for OTG Management. He was putting together lists of spirits, cocktails, beer and wine, and missed interacting with customers, so a friend at Flatiron Wines & Spirits suggested he work there. “I would do one retail shift every Saturday. I was lucky when I started to cut my teeth in the wine world: ’60s Barolo—Borgogno and Rinaldi—and old Produttori Barbaresco were things we would drink on Saturday nights.”

Now Lieberman is full time at Compagnie, where you might find him sabering three-liter bottles of Champagne, wielding his Port tongs on back vintage California cabernet and pioneering white Bordeaux sales. The vibe is relaxed but the list is serious, around 1,000 selections, full of rare finds from the Loire, Burgundy and Jura along with some of the best Champagne prices in NYC.

"Theo won the Rudd Scholarship for his performance in the Certified Sommelier exam and has continued to learn about the wines of the world with a voracious appetite." — Bryn Birkhahn, Rebelle, NYC

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