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In Conversation with Patrice Hewski, Beverage Manager at Commonwealth National Golf Club

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26/08/2020 "The most important attribute for a sommelier is being humble," says Patrice Hewski.

Patrice Hewski is the beverage manager at Commonwealth National Golf Club. She is a certified Sommelier that is in the advanced program at The Wine School of Philadelphia. She considers herself to be a professional mixologist however, her formal schooling was in art and art history. She finds the hospitality industry to be hugely satisfying. Her priority is balance and she feels like she has that in my life now more than ever.

Your current place of work 

Commonwealth National Golf Club in Horsham Pennsylvania

How long have you been in the drinks industry?

I started cocktail waitressing when I was 19 so, about 18 years. I didn’t truly get serious about drinks until 5 years ago.

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

COVID has forced every aspect of the hospitality industry to pivot. It has been a catalyst for change and innovation. The club industry is booming right now. We can provide socialization in a safe environment. I am very fortunate to be in the position I am in during these times.

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

The most important skill for a sommelier is the ability to listen. The most important attribute for a sommelier is being humble. These two things go hand in hand. I can learn a lot about a person during a 5-minute encounter if I am truly present in the moment. A sommelier’s job is to gather information and guide a guest confidently to a decision.

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

Demographics and trends. I remind myself that I am not buying wine for myself but rather as a “gift” for someone else. I look to what has been popular in the past and try to mimic the trends. I also like to throw a few dark horses in there for the more adventurous palates.

Where and what you drink when not working?

Well... I am currently 6 months pregnant with my second child so I haven’t been doing any drinking. Date nights used to consist of fish tacos, wings, and margaritas at El Barrio Cantina, our local Mexican restaurant. Outings with girlfriends were usually byob wine bottles at the Blue Sage Vegetarian grill in Southampton PA.

Your favorite places to get happy hour deals?

I love to venture into the Lahaska/Lambertville area. The Porter House in Lahaska provides a good beer and wine selection with their small bites. I’m itching to try Stella in New Hope so I’ll report back once I do.

What are the new wines to taste now?

Come the holiday season I’ll be tasing wine once again and on my list are Hope Estate 2015, The Ripper, Shiraz. Hecht and Bannier 2018 Rose. Celene Amethyste Brut Blanc de Noirs. I’ll also have my eye out for an off-dry Riesling and a Cabernet out of Stellenbosch.

Tips for other sommeliers

Don’t be too serious. Ultimately wine is subjective and its really just about what you like. At the same time understand that marketing and branding are powerful tools that can easily sway a guest in one direction or another.

What do you enjoy the most about this job?

People! I’ve met some wonderful people in the many years I’ve been in this industry. The best lessons I’ve learned are from the people I’ve met along the way and o man have I laughed! With so much diversity there isn’t a day that goes by that there isn’t a crazy situation to laugh about. Makes it all worth it at the end of the day.

Tips on how you can sell wine to your restaurant customers

Be genuine and trustworthy. Sometimes you know what a customer likes before they do and you just need to introduce them to it. Look for opportunities within every encounter.

Tips on how restaurants can market wines to drive wine sales

With the new Covid related mandates going on in the restaurant industry we have no choice but to sell alcohol with wine. Well, that’s the point of wine, to be enjoyed with food. Work on some interesting pairings and discount wines by the bottle with certain food purchases. I’m noticing that dining is not being taken for granted anymore. People are much more adventurous with purchases as they would be on a vacation. I work at a place that provides a “staycation” lifestyle. This is the model that is in demand right now so we’re running with it and the rest seems to be falling into place.

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