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What Sommeliers are Drinking at Home

Coly Den Haan.
Coly Den Haan Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ever wonder what the brightest minds in their field do in their off time? So do we. That inspired us to pick the brains of Michelin-starred chefs to see what they’re munching on at home. Now, we’re asking the top winos in the land what they like to drink away from the workplace.

It’s an irresistible question, sort of like asking which fellow athletes a star pro basketball player appreciates, or what hacks a sleep expert uses to snooze better. These people are at the top of their field for a reason, and we can’t help but want to be flies on their walls. In this case, we want to nose through their fridges, wine cellars, and home bars.

Coly Den Haan is a sommelier and wine shop owner based in Southern California. Her store, Vinovore, is a bottle shop set along the edge of the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. It’s run by women and features women winemakers, along with selections from sake, beer, and cider producers. For Den Haan, when she’s off the clock it’s all about sipping on a classic.

“As much as I love wine and how it’s a major part of my life, at home I tend to go straight for an ice-cold martini,” she says. “My current favorite is two parts Future Gin, one part Dolin extra dry vermouth, a splash of dirty juice with an olive and a twist!”

Filippo Bartolotta is a seasoned wine expert, having logged many years in the circuit. He has served as a tasting judge for Decanter and has been dubbed the “sommelier of the stars,” having worked with Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and the Obama family in Tuscany. Bartolotta jokes that while not working, he takes a break from booze. “Kidding,” he assures us.

“Usually I open samples that come my way and I enjoy sharing them later with friends and neighbors to hear what they think,” he says. “Occasionally I crack open some old vintages like, tonight, an Amarone 1971 for my best friend’s birthday.”
He’s definitely the kind of somm you hope to live in the neighborhood with, to take part in some of his frequent sampling parties. Bartolotta also appreciates some iconic go-to Italian sippers. “I love a taste of artisan amaro or some serious grappa in winter,” he admits. “A good craft beer to break the routine as well.”
Paola Embry headshot.
Over in the desert in Arizona, Paola Embry is the wine director at the stunning Wrigley Mansion. The Chilean-born somm has earned quite a following, having created an amazing list at Wrigley along with several other outposts. Her esteemed and varied wines lists have earned her the “Best Award of Excellence” title from Wine Spectator multiple times.
“When I’m off the clock, I love drinking different Crus of Beaujolais from any of the ten Cru Villages,” Embry says. “They tend to go well with the many comfort foods that we eat during the numerous festivities of the holiday months.”
What kind of pairings? Embry is one step ahead of us. “For example, Juliénas pairs perfectly with game meat like lamb, duck, or a wild meat ragù Bolognese with pappardelle pasta—some of the most ideal comfort food, in my opinion,” she says. “I also love a more medium-bodied Chénas.”
Embry also can’t resist a good bottle of bubbles. “I also love to drink growers champagne, which I also like to refer to sometimes as ‘farmer fizz,'” she says. “These are bottles that are produced by very small, often family-owned, Champagne houses, leading to small batches of artisanal and incredibly delicious Champagne.”
She’s especially fond of NV André Couet No.3 Grand Cru Rosé, Bouzy, Champagne made from Pinot Noir. Also, a couple of 100% Chardonnay selections including NV Larmandier-Bernier ‘Latitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru, Vertus, Champagne as well as NV Robert Moncuit ‘Les Grand Blancs’ Blanc des Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.

 NV André Couet No.3 Grand Cru Rosé, Bouzy, Champagne

André Clouet, No.3, Bouzy Grand Cru Brut Rosé.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Take delight in this 100% Pinot Noir flavored with seductive notes of pomegranate, raspberry, wild strawberry, cherry blossoms, fresh red and pink flowers, crushed chalk, and orange zest.

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NV Larmandier-Bernier ‘Latitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru, Vertus, Champagne

NV Larmandier-Bernier ‘Latitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru, Vertus, Champagne.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A dry blend of 100% Chardonnay from Vertus, this breath-taking wine has elegant and pure flavors, making every sip a thrill.

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NV Robert Moncuit ‘Les Grand Blancs’ Blanc des Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger

NV Robert Moncuit 'Les Grand Blancs’ Blanc des Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, this wine is delightfully refreshing and calls for any celebration.

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Somm Erin Scala runs the wine program Birdie’s in Virginia. The oyster bar, cafe, and wine hangout touts a list of some 400 bottles. Scala likes a few options away from work, alcoholic and not, many unexpected.
“Parker Girard, our wonderful Bar Manager, introduced us all to Stappi—a red rhubarb bitter soda that is non-alcoholic but similar to Campari in flavor,” Scala says. “It is the perfect drink for when you want something amazing without the alcohol.”
Scala also loves tea. “I go crazy over high-quality Oolong Tea,” she says. “I love trying all the different iterations, and Oolong is one of those elegant, hand-made products that are not difficult to find.” Scala hunts specifically for the loose-leaf kind at nicer tea shops or natural food stores.
What about wine? Well, like a lot of somms, Scala is into Syrah. But she’s also into a lesser-known sparkling. “In Limoux, they’ve been making sparkling wine since 1531,” Scala says. “There are two main kinds, Blanquette and Crémant, and both are usually affordable and delicious. These are typically based on Chenin Blanc or Mauzac, and tend to have a lovely deep flavor that kind of reminds me of pears.”
So if you ever want to drink like the sommeliers do, now you know how.
Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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