For wine and restaurant workers, 2022 was dedicated to regaining their sea legs—finding out how consumers had changed over the pandemic and adapting to their new preferences. In 2023, it’s time to enjoy all of that hard work. Wine Spectator talked to 11 top sommeliers, asking them what they resolve to do in the new year when it comes to wine, whether that be pursuing a certification, drinking more grape varieties they tend to overlook, or finally booking that flight to visit vineyards they’ve always wanted to see. For these pros, 2023 is the year to get the ball rolling.
Wine Spectator: What’s your New Year’s wine resolution?
Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Cinder House, St. Louis, Mo.
I believe that the journey to mastering your subject involves immersion, so for my New Year’s wine resolution I am committing to enrichment travel. First on my list is Santorini, Greece. I have been excited about Greek wines for several years and have been advocating for them on wine lists and food pairing usage. Santorini’s vibrant Assyrtiko grape has quickly become one of my favorite white varietals, and my curiosity is calling for a trip across the Atlantic for a deep, educational dive! Other regions on my short list include Champagne, Burgundy and Germany. My goal is to acquire first-hand knowledge on why these classics are considered timeless!
John McKenna, beverage director at l’abeille, New York City
I would like to make more time to open up large-format bottles with friends and family. I particularly like opening a bottle of Kabinett Riesling as it's always so surprisingly easy to drink and people are generally impressed by the tall, graceful bottles they are typically in. Bordeaux in 3-liter or larger is also very fun as it feels regal yet accessible.
Laura Bruno, sommelier at Best Award of Excellence winner Elements in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
At Elements we have been working tirelessly to elevate the staff's wine knowledge. We currently have 12 employees, who I am incredibly proud of, that have been preparing to take their introductory-level certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers. I would love to continue providing and enhancing the educational opportunities to all of our staff. Walking alongside them as they become budding sommeliers has been one of the most enriching experiences of my career.
In addition to continuing staff education, I would like to start seriously compiling and organizing all of the notes, essays and thoughts I have written about wine since I started studying at 18. I have hundreds of files worth of information. Getting it all into a single place would be great. Who knows, maybe one day I can make my writings available for others to read, but that’s another goal a few years down the line.
Andrey Ivanov, president and CEO of Bliss Wine Concierge, formerly wine director at Best Award of Excellence winner Lazy Bear in San Francisco
I want to head south by southeast, about as far as one can go from San Francisco: I believe it’s about 22 hours of flight time to Cape Town. I think that [the Republic of South Africa] is a region that's getting better and better year in and year out. It also offers a huge variety of styles, as well as price points. I love Chenin Blanc in all forms, and the wines here draw the same comparisons as Chardonnay does: RSA is to the Loire as the New World is to Burgundy. I think Chris Alheit is making some of the coolest white wines in the world, and I can’t wait to trek down there and hopefully fanboy him in person. For reds, the Syrah from Andrea Mullineux is just amazing as well. Just like any other region, the best way to teach someone about it is to learn first-hand from the people on the ground. Just need to book my flights!
Ron Acierto, wine and beverage director at ōkta in McMinnville, Ore.
My New Year's wine resolution is to keep expanding my knowledge to inform the wine pairings we're offering with chef Matthew Lightner's tasting menu at ōkta. In particular, my focus is broadening my understanding of the local wine varietals outside the vast majority of Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris that are grown in the Willamette Valley. Historically, the trailblazers of Oregon winemaking planted polyclonal varietals in numerous areas of the valley. Throughout the last decade or two, older plantings of Melon de Bourgogne, Grüner Veltliner, Mencía, Tempranillo, Viognier, Riesling, Sémillon and Gewürztraminer have been discovered, with those varietals continuing to produce incredible wines. Having access to many of these small-production, limited bottlings to pair with the courses within the ōkta tasting menu is also a way to educate and expose our guests to unfamiliar wines made locally.
Alexis Percival, managing partner and owner at Ruffian in New York City
My New Year's resolution is to go back to Slovenia in 2023. I love the Adriatic region, and I’m curious to travel more inland. There’s a persistent echo of the region’s history that can be seen through wine. I’m eager to see the difference as you travel away from the coast. Plus I miss my winemaker friends there and can’t wait to reconnect.
I have lots of New Year's drink resolutions. Chief amongst them is the launch of my wine club: GoodSomm. The idea behind this club is to provide wine lovers not just with delicious wine but with the three things I love most about wine: Community, discovery and experience. Beyond that, I'd like to enhance my sake knowledge, ideally by taking an immersive sake certification in Japan. While I have been blessed to visit many of the world's wine regions, there are some to which I have still never been. I hope to check Chile, Azores Islands, Sardinia, Mendoza, Cyprus and Armenia off that list this year.
Julian Simard-Gillis, head sommelier at Grand Award winner Post Hotel Dining Room, in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
My drink resolution for 2023 will be to push myself outside my comfort zone. On a personal note, try wines that I wouldn’t always jump at. Professionally, get back behind the bar and mix more cocktails! It’s easy to get stuck in a routine, but even better to break it.
Amy Mitchell, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Indian Accent in New York City
In 2022, I had the pleasure of introducing wines from Baja California in Mexico to my palate. I found the wines to be stunning, and they sparked my curiosity. In 2023, my New Year's drink resolution is to take a deeper dive into the oldest wine region in the Americas. I plan to develop a better understanding of the region and winemaking, as well as become familiar with more producers. In other words, I plan to taste a lot more wine from Mexico.
Bethany Heinze, co-owner and beverage director at Vern’s in Charleston, S.C.
I would like to dive deeper into low-ABV beverage components and expand our program at Vern's. There are so many exciting ingredients to use as a creative platform for cocktails [if a restaurant doesn't have that kind of] a liquor license, I feel like we've just scratched the surface! I'd love to get more creative and reflect on some of the culinary techniques happening in our kitchen.
Charlie Broder, owner and wine director at Best Award of Excellence winner Terzo in Minneapolis
Every year brings new outlooks. 2021 brought Chianti Classico to the center of my focus, and I would like to continue to lean into Chianti Classico. I think there are producers and wines coming out of the zone that are changing the way the area identifies itself as well as bringing a spotlight to the epic and vast terroir that resides within it. Alternatively, as an Italian and Piedmont specialist, it’s high on my priority list to deeply explore the terroir and producers of Burgundy, something most wine professionals focus on early in their career. Also, magnums. It is a resolution of mine to buy more, drink more and share more wine out of magnum, arguably the most appropriately sized of all vessels.