Sommelier Business

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In Conversation with Anthony Donahue, Sommelier, San Francisco Bay Area

Photo for: In Conversation with Anthony Donahue, Sommelier, San Francisco Bay Area

28/08/2020 Quality wines at the mid-level price range that will sell in a reasonable amount of time is what I look for while buying wines, says Anthony.

Anthony Donahue is originally from Chicago. He has worked in the beverage industry in Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Napa, and the Bay Area. He received his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Nevada-Reno, where he was also on the boxing team from 2008-2012. Most importantly, he has a seven-year-old daughter.

Your current place of work / Last place of work

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

How long have you been in the drinks industry?

Approximately 12 years.

How according to you has the role of the sommelier evolved, especially now during COVID times?

Presently it is necessary for the role of a sommelier to evolve quickly into developing an e-commerce platform, in which wine is available for pickup or delivery. Effectively marketing your e-commerce platform to current and prospective customers. As well as offering discounts and shipping at no charge given the current circumstances.

What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier?

Being humble, listening to and meeting the guest’s needs, and not overselling. Being humble is especially important, as we are dealing with wine, it is not a life or death situation; it’s not that serious. Meeting the needs of guests is our number one priority. If we do not listen and meet their specific needs or requests, we might be responsible for a lackluster celebratory occasion. We should never oversell. If we oversell, we are abusing the guest’s trust and they will be less likely to return. It’s better to sell two or three mid-priced bottles than one expensive bottle.

What do you look for when you plan to buy wine for your business? 

Quality wines at the mid-level price range that will sell in a reasonable amount of time, as the majority of wines have a shelf life of 3-10 years. I try to limit purchases of high-end wines and wines that still need time to develop in the bottle to once or twice a quarter depending on sales.

Where and what you drink when not working?

Typically bourbon neat, at numerous dive bars in Oakland. On occasion a German Spatlese Riesling from the Mosel.

Your favorite places to get happy hour deals?

The Double Standard and Xolo Taqueria in Oakland.

What are the new wines to taste now?

Alsatian Pinot Gris from the ’90s and early 2000s are showing really well right now. I wouldn’t necessarily call them new in regards to linear time, but rather new to the palette for most people. They have pronounced aromas and tastes of nuts, apricots (botrytis), and a touch of residual sugar.

Tips for other sommeliers

Keep learning academically and improving your social graces. Most importantly make sure you are fulfilled or content with your work.

What do you enjoy the most about this job?

The staff education aspects. I enjoy reading about wine immensely in free time, however, I’ve come to realize most of my staff does not. Developing a staff education program in which I focus on a wine a week with a one-page overview (history, tasting notes, pairings, maps, etc.) has become an area of enjoyment for the staff as well as myself.

Tips on how you can sell wine to your restaurant customers

Undersell on the first couple of bottles while ensuring quality in order to earn your guests trust. They will appreciate this and give you more leeway in the future.

Tips on how restaurants can market wines to drive wine sales

Implement a weekly or bi-weekly feature (deal) on a wine by the glass. Update the wine list for the featured wine and educate the staff about the wine.

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