Sommelier Roundtable: What's in Your Personal Cellar?

These 9 wine pros sell bottles for a living, but here's what they collect on their own dime and time
Sommelier Roundtable: What's in Your Personal Cellar?
Whether cases of daily drinkers or special birth-year wines, most somms keep a private stock. (iStockPhoto)
Feb 8, 2019

On the job, sommeliers may nudge diners toward certain personal favorites, but ultimately they serve the wines their customers demand. On their own time, in their own cellars, though, they can lay down the wines they love best.

We asked nine wine pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners what's in their personal cellars, and their answers included both the classics and the up-and-comers, from Rhône legends to Aussie Rieslings—to "I just end up drinking it all." Read about these experts' collections, and get some inspiration for your own!

Wine Spectator: What's in your cellar now? What types of wine do you personally collect?

Richard Hanauer, beverage director for Chicago-based RPM Restaurants, including two locations of Best of Award of Excellence winner RPM Italian and RPM Steak

Hermitage—buckets and buckets of Hermitage, red and white. Since my youngest wine-drinking days, I have always been obsessed with “the wines of the hill.” Chave, Chapoutier and Jaboulet are the regular occurrences, but I also have bottlings from smaller wineries and co-ops. When I'm not focusing on my favorite hill during the weekends, I love drinking Australian whites and Loire reds during the week.

Nancy Oakes, chef and co-owner, and John Lancaster, wine director, of Best of Award of Excellence winner Boulevard in San Francisco

Oakes: Right now I’m on a big white Burgundy kick—[and] I picked the wrong time to be on a white Burgundy kick because other people are on it too. I have a whole wall of Cabernets that I rarely touch.

We have a house in Healdsburg, [Calif.], so I also try to collect the wine of my friends up there, so like Radio-Coteau, and I still love Kistler and Rochioli, my direct neighbors.

Lancaster: At home we drink a lot of Loire Valley whites, Sancerre, stuff like that. Like Nancy, I love Burgundy, white and red. I have some Bordeaux in my cellar; when I first started collecting wine I collected Mouton-Rothschild. But mainly my cellar is Northern Rhône, white and red Burgundy, and a little bit of New World stuff.

Lenka Davis, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Barbareño in Santa Barbara, Calif.

After evacuating our house twice last winter, I drank the best bottles with close friends. I don't have a single regret and keep the stock now to bare minimum. After all, I built the wine list in the restaurant I work for around the wines I would like to drink anytime, and have 200-plus choices I can make every night.

Ryan Bailey, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner NoMad Los Angeles

My cellar is pretty diverse and consists of stuff I am aging, as well as bottles close at hand to drink when friends come over. I have a solid amount of Champagne, older Rieslings, white Burgundies, younger Northern Rhône Syrahs and some random older bottles from California.

Luciano De Riso, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Grand Old House in George Town, Cayman Islands

I enjoy mature Italian wines—Guado al Tasso, Giusto di Notri and Flaccianello are my favorites. Southern Rhône reds are always present—Pégaü, old Beaucastel—and Cornas from Clape are standouts for me.

I do collect based on important dates. I was born in 1982, and I have a few of them, including Sassicaia and Cheval-Blanc. 2015 is the year that I will invest the most in, as it is my son's birth year. I already have a Duclot case, Sassicaia, a few Rhônes, and Leflaive whites from this great vintage.

Seán Gargano, wine director at Award of Excellence winner The Legal Eagle in Dublin, Ireland

My cellar only holds what I drink on a weekly basis. My big regret is that I did not begin collecting earlier. I used to tend to get impatient and drink most of what I had intended to lay down. Then my children came along, and they suck up all of the money I would use to invest in wine. Little nuisances.

Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Allora in Sacramento, Calif.

My restaurant focuses on Italian wine, so naturally I have a mostly Italian wine at home. I also have a lot of wine that is sentimental; several bottles of Franciacorta I picked up on my last visit to Italy a few months back, gifts from friends and guests, and lots of magnums.

I am an equal-opportunist when it comes to wine, so sometimes there will be something really random; Georgian or Macedonian, just for the sake of trying new wine! I do have a few nice bottles of Rioja and Bordeaux, too. The most unfortunate aspect of my collection at home is that it is shockingly humble considering my line of work.

Carlin Karr, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo.

I like to drink all kinds of wines but always have grower Champagne, Chablis, Grüner Veltliner, Northern Rhône Syrah, Sangiovese, southern French reds and whites from producers like Mas Jullien and Château Simone, Nebbiolo and Bordeaux with age in our wine fridge at home. Those are on my regular playlist. My husband and I also have an off-site cellar where we stash away full cases of more blue-chip Burgundy, Barolo and Rhône producers.

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