When Ramon Narvaez first started at Marcel’s more than 12 years ago, Chef Wiedmaier sent him to vineyards all over Europe to learn and taste, and then to wine classes to qualify as a sommelier.
I enjoy telling guests stories from grape to bottle of certain vintages. About seven years ago, I got to stay at the main château on the Moët & Chandon estate— which is an experience in itself. Chefs came from all over to cook for us and pair the food with Dom Pérignon dating back to the ’70s. I have a photograph of a small chapel in Hautvillers, where Dom Pérignon and another famous monk, Dom Ruinart, used to live and work together. In this tiny church are two marble tombstones on the floor that bear their names. It’s a great story to bring up at a table.
A couple of years ago, I was at Jaboulet with a small group of Americans. We had a chance to create our own hermitage using bottles of the different cuvées after an informational session with the chef de cave. Then we got to pass them around and taste them all. I like to use this story to illustrate that wine is a very personal thing, and that while you can get to know it better with the right training, it still boils down to what you like. That day in the Jaboulet lab, we were all excited about the different blends we each had made. And wine should do that: excite you. It’s not about the ratings or the points a bottle has gotten in a review—it’s personal taste. Growing up in South America, I can distinguish the tropical fruits and flavors in a wine straight away because my brain recognizes them; apples and pears, not so much! So don’t be afraid to bring your own experiences to the table, and you’ll find that it’s hard to make the wrong wine choice that way.