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Boston’s Best Sommeliers & Wine Directors

October 24, 2012 4:00 AM

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File image (credit: ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images)

File image (credit: ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images)

Wine is just as important to dining as the food itself. These five sommeliers handpick selections for their perspective businesses’ lists to provide variety, value and, most importantly, tasty options to enjoy alongside sophisticated cuisine at some of Boston’s best eateries. Whether they studied and received certifications or just have years of experience under their belt, they all share a love and passion for wine and want to pass it along to their guests.
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David Cicciarella (Photo Credit: Brasserie Jo)


David Cicciarella, General Manager & Sommelier
Brasserie Jo, Colonnade Hotel
120 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 425-3240
www.brasseriejoboston.com

David Cicciarella has become knowledgeable about wine from his years of studying for The Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators. He achieved his level I sommelier certificate as well as completed the level II exam. He said he truly appreciates his role at Brasserie Jo. “Being a sommelier is fun, educational and challenging. One of the best parts about my job is that there is always something new going on. Whether I taste a wine that I’ve never tasted before, find the perfect pairing for a new dish, or am simply reading and learning something new, being a sommelier keeps my mind and my taste buds constantly stimulated,” he said. Brasserie boasts a 100-percent French wine list, including his pick for fall, Mourvèdre. He said the options sometimes intimidate guests, but he wants visitors to know the “entire management team and wait staff will gladly assist in navigating our guests to the perfect wine for each experience. We are committed to engaging each guest in a completely unpretentious atmosphere.”
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Ben Sweeney (Photo Credit: Four Seasons Boston)


Ben Sweeney, Wine Director
Four Seasons
200 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 338-4400
www.fourseasons.com/

Ben Sweeney is extremely enthusiastic about what he does. Though he doesn’t have a formal sommelier certification, his wine experience stands out, and is all he needs for success in his role. “I have to state for the record I am not a certified sommelier. It’s my passion, and when you already have control of a $115k / $120k wine cellar, nobody pays much attention to your credentials anyway,” he noted. Certification or not, he is a passionate, professional wine expert who understands the needs of his guests. “I try to keep in mind that not everyone is a wine geek like me and interested in the obscure and unusual, so I keep a stock of favorite Cali cabs and chards on the list but also succeed in sneaking on my own darling of the moment.” He also said Four Seasons offers the “broadest range of wines possible to appeal to our international and wine savvy guests.” Prices range from $25 to $3,600 per bottle, allowing for options in all price ranges. He serves up to 25 wines by the glass (not including dessert wines) and features around 450 labels on the restaurant’s diverse wine list.
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Cat Silirie (Photo Credit: Barbara Lynch Gruppo)


Cat Silirie, Executive Wine Director & Wine Buyer
Barbara Lynch Gruppo
319 A St.
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 399-8513
barbaralynch.com/

Cat Silirie is the award-winning executive wine director of the restaurant and bars under the Barbara Lynch Gruppo umbrella. Within the restaurants, the most popular question diners ask of Sommeliers and the staff is what they personally would drink themselves. “Because our staff is diverse and thirsty, their recommendations range from provence rosé to Austrian blaufrankish to Mt. Etna’s nerello mascalese. We all enjoy the alchemy of working with guests in selecting wines.” She said she became a sommelier because Bacchus (aka Dionysus, the god of wine) spoke to her in a dream. “So I simply had to begin an apprenticeship. It truly was and is a calling. After I became a sommelier and had been working as one for many years, I had another equally powerful dream in which Dionysus prophesized that I steer my course from sommelier to wine director that is a director of other sommeliers, because on a restaurant floor, 10 sommeliers are better than one.”

Related: Boston’s Best Hangouts for People Who Love Wine and Food

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Erich Schliebe (Photo Credit: L’Espalier)

Erich Schliebe, Sommelier
L’Espalier
774 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02199
(617) 262-3023
www.lespalier.com

Since 2004, Erich Schliebe has worked at L’Espalier, where his hard work paid off and moved him from waiter to manager to where he is today, as sommelier and host of events including Wine Monday and Cheese Tuesday. “I alternate feeling very important with feeling very lowly. Some days I get to taste some of the best wines in the world and meet really interesting people. Other days I get to move 50 cases of wine and spend a few hours tangling with spreadsheets. A great deal of my day occurs before the restaurant opens. There’s schedules and menus to write, budgets to compile, orders to assemble, phone calls, and hopefully, a tasting or two. During service I help guests select wines they will like.” He said his favorite food and wine pairing is blanc de blanc Champagne and buttermilk fried chicken because of the “high-brow/low-brow contrast.” In regards to L’espalier’s wine program versus other area restaurants, he said the list “leans very heavily French, specializing in burgundy and bordeaux. It’s a largish list (but still manageable), which does put it apart from most of the other lists in the area. I’m not a big fan of the small, focused lists. I like it when people take a bit of time to read it through. To me the L’Espalier list is like a record collection. I want to have a lot of things to listen to depending on my mood, time of day, the company I’m with, etc. And I want to offer our guests a variety of options to choose from along those same lines.”

alejandro pagni afp getty i Bostons Best Sommeliers & Wine Directors

File image (credit: ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images)


Brent Hayes, Sommelier
Abe and Louie’s
793 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-6300
www.abeandlouies.com

Brent Hayes brings more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant and wine industries to the bar at Abe and Louie’s. He said the restaurant offers have more than 200 bottles on its award-winning wine list, differing from other steakhouses in that it frequently updates its list to “capture changing trends and seasonal updates.” It features “evolving, diverse international wine selections, presented in a casual, friendly manner with great value.” He said he loves his job because he “finds recommending new and exciting wines to my regular guests to be the most rewarding part of being a sommelier. It’s so fulfilling to provide diners with an unparalleled food and wine experience with a personal touch. We often take the wine together and share our experience.”

Related: Boston’s City Wine Tours

Michelle Levine is a creative energetic, young professional that is passionate about everything Boston has to offer. She loves to attend local events, dine out, and cook and wants to share her findings with you. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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