EatDrinkJax.com takes a moment with Chad and Ian of Ovinte.
Photo courtesy Monica Lea Imagery
25. How do you choose your wines?
Chad: For our list I fretted for months. I wanted to write a list that had a good number of wines that people were comfortable with - some brand names. I didn't want to create a list made up of oddball wines that nobody had ever heard of. Then, I wanted to mix in some wines that would be new to many people. That allowed me to steer them into a direction of trying something that might be outside their comfort zone. Within that I wanted to focus on Italian and Spanish wines because that was the inspiration for our menu. On top of that, Pinot Noir and Cabernets from California are always big hits so that was a natural focus for us as well.
26. Because wine is such a part of Ovinté do people come to you looking for wines they're familiar with or are they looking for something new and different?
Chad: I think it's probably 50-50. Most people assume that a place that prides itself on it's wine will carry things that are going to be pretty good. A lot of people have types of wine they like but with our many options by the glass they can experiment and branch out from what they like to new wines that they may not have tried before. I talk to people every night who ask to be walked through our wine list - I'm always happy to do that.
27. Are there any particular trends in wine today, for the regions you're focused on?
Chad: Pinot Noir is hot. It started with the movie Sideways years ago but it's still really, really big. We sell a fair amount of Italian wine, which I'm really excited about because it's one of my favorites. It also just goes so well with food. We're starting to see a lot more people try Italian wines with their dinner. They're getting out of their rut of California Cabernet. Pinot Noir and Italian wines are a big focus for us.
28. How did you become a sommelier?
Chad: There are a couple of different ways. There's an organization called the Court of Master Sommeliers that is a national group that conducts testing. There are 4 levels of testing to reach the designation of Master Sommelier - I've passed 2 of the levels so far.
29. What makes for a good sommelier?
Chad: If you ask 10 sommeliers you'll probably get 10 different answers but I personally think it involves listening to a guest and asking questions. My goal as a sommelier and as an owner of the restaurant is to get every guest the best glass or bottle of wine based on what they're conveying that they're looking for. If someone comes in and says they want a light, easy drinking red wine, I'm not going to point them in the direction of a Cabernet. A good sommelier asks the right questions and then listens to the answers in order to steer the guest to the right wine. I've met a lot of wine directors around the country who want to steer everyone to what they personally want to drink, rather than what the guest is looking for. I think it should be all about the guest.
…so, a sommelier isn't necessarily about being a wine critic…
Chad: Some would say it is and it's about having a discerning palate. For me, I've grown up in Jacksonville and watched it grow into a nice little wine town but when I first started people were afraid of wine. I wanted to break down the barrier to make wine less intimidating. I've always been fairly casual about how I talk to people about wine. I don't ever say one thing is better than another. It's all based on whatever that person likes. What I like may not be what someone else likes. In this market I think it's important to expose as many people to wine as possible.