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In Talks with Yuki Minakawa, Sake Sommelier, NYC

Photo for: In Talks with Yuki Minakawa, Sake Sommelier, NYC

28/08/2020 I see Sommeliers more flexible taking different roles in the restaurants. Incorporating virtual studies, teaching and also tastings, especially during COVID times says Yuki.

Yuki Minakawa is a certified sake sommelier but also studied and worked with all kinds of beverages. She was the beverage and service director for Sushi Ginza Onodera, responsible for their beverage program and service. She created their first cocktail program and also their homemade non-alcoholic beverages. 

She says, I've been working in Japanese restaurants for the past 12 years. I started as a hostess, became a manager and after that, I worked in every position in a restaurant.  I fell in love with the "drinks industry" when I worked with a wine distributor as a sales rep. After that, I did promote a Japanese Shochu and met so many amazing bartenders and mixologists. My love for cocktails creation began and I started to bartend. In 2014 I took the first sake sommelier "kikizakeshi" test in NY and became certified by SSI and SSA. Since then I have been working as a sommelier. And my studies continue.....

Your Last place of work

Sushi Ginza Onodera

How long have you been in the drinks industry?

about 12 years

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

I see Sommeliers more flexible taking different roles in the restaurants. Incorporating virtual studies, teaching and also tastings.

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

the ability of tasting, pairing food, good communication with staff and customers, knowledge of their list and in general

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

When you build a list price point can have a big role. In general, I for quality and how the wine/sake is showing at the moment. Customer's preference and food type take a big role in the final decision 

Where and what you drink when not working?

Everything! I love to taste different types of "drinks". It all depends on what I am having. If Japanese, sake! If steak, I started to enjoy with a nice grand cru. Champagne is good at any time! And for a nightcap, a nice whiskey. 

Your favorite places to get happy hour deals?

Anywhere Japanese! 

What the new wines to taste now?

I've been on a Rose Bandol moment....

Tips for other sommeliers

Study and taste! That will bring confidence and training to taste buds 

What do you enjoy the most about this job?

Taste different types and styles of wine/sake/spirits and cocktail creation

Tips on how you can sell wine to your restaurant customers

Listen to your customers is probably the most important thing. Understand the list and always keep the energy up. 

Tips on how restaurants can market wines to drive wine sales

Rotating BTG giving customers the opportunity of trying new wines/sake and at the same time educating your staff for future sales. Making a special smaller Sommelier list, depending what kind of restaurant. 

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