Understanding your customers and winemakers is key

Keeping in mind that a wine list is there to serve the guest, not the sommelier’s ego, must always be kept at the forefront, but that’s not to say that guests aren’t ready for an adventurous recommendation.

“There has to be a balance of meeting the needs of my guests by sticking to the basics, as well as making room for wines that exist outside of the box,” said Seth Wilson, wine director at Booth One in Chicago. “My favorite game to play with guests is the wine trust-fall. I enjoy building faith with my guests with things they already know, and then having them give me the reins to bring them somewhere else totally unexpected and really rocking their world. Since I try so many wines throughout my week, I like to be introduced to, and promote, winemakers that don’t mind being playful and taking a chance by making wines that will really mark a memory.”

And just like a sports team manager, once you know the score on the field, it’s absolutely encouraged to riff and take some risks.

“Don’t be afraid to have fun with your buying and have faith in what you already know,” Wilson said. “You got to this position for a reason, so don’t just follow the cookie-cutter strategy because it’s easy. Go against the status quo and take yourself, and your guest, somewhere they have never been, and instill in them a moment that they won’t forget.”