Sitting Down with Rachel from Abaco Wines & Wine Bar

Where did you grow up?   

 Holyoke, Massachusetts. Western Massachusetts- close to the 5 college area and 45 minutes from Vermont

What did you aspire to be when you grew up?  

I wanted to be a Fashion Designer and Business Woman. I still get to have fun with fashion at work. Leading wine classes/tastings is kind of like putting on an educational show, so the clothes have to be able to stand up to the information being presented.

How did you find your way to into the world of viticulture? 

I have a BBA from Parsons School of Design in NYC. I took a year off of school and lived on Maui where I started working in restaurants. When I returned to school my Junior year, I waitressed for some extra money, but found I really liked working in restaurants; the excitement, the thrill, it was fun. I spent a couple years after college in Miami doing styling work and working in restaurants in South Beach. I left Miami to head back to the Northeast, but after a number of jobs, including jewelry consultant and Hair Salon owner, I moved back to Miami and started working at BLT Steak as a transition till my next career step. Turns out, I loved talking about wine and I decided to get certified as a Sommelier. 

What does your job entail as a sommelier at Abaco Wine?

I taste a lot of wine to find out what we should carry in the store, organize and lead wine tastings and classes, run our social media accounts where I write wine reviews, work with private clients to put together custom wine club packages based on their palate preferences, and I sell Barowsky Disesa Vineyards (our private label) in the store and to restaurants.

What do you think makes a good sommelier?

A good sommelier should enhance the drinking experience. We can all go out and buy a bottle of wine, but a good sommelier will make sure you will enjoy that bottle. I have certain taste preferences, but I would never push wine that I like when I discover that my customer has a completely different flavor profile than I do. It’s about asking the right questions and providing the drinkable solution.

Do you think that more people are entering this industry and why do you think is?   

Yes, I agree more people are entering into this industry due to documentaries and shows like Somm and A Year in Burgundy because they allow an accessibility that wasn’t available to the public before. Also,it’s a fun industry to be in! Its appealing to plan ones life around wine. This industry provides an excuse to travel and see new wine countries. My husband is a chef, and our favorite activity is dining out together (preferably when traveling). He opens my world to new flavor profiles and I’m able to pair wines to go with our meals. For me, you can’t have one without the other. 

What are your top three indispensable wine collection favourites? 

This is a difficult question because there is so much good wine out there and to have a great collection, it needs to be well tounded. It also depends if we are talking budget or not.  Each collection should be personal, so budget or no budget, there should be wines in your collection that mean something to you; wines that transport you back to the year or place you first held that bottle. Besides emotional attachment, when talking collection, the wine should be of varietals that age well and are from good vintage years. I was born in 1982, one of the best vintages in the last 40 years, so let’s start there. Last year for my birthday my husband bought a bottle of 1982 Lynch Bages which was drinking beautifully and still has some life left! Red Burgundy is some of my favorite wine to drink; so elegant, true to terroir, and utterly delicious. Visiting Burgundy was a magical experience, and dining there was spectacular. One of my favorite wines we drank in Burgundy on our honeymoon was a 2010 Vosne Romanée Village from Domaine Sylvain Cathiard & Fils. If I could get my hands on any of his Grand Crus I would add them to this list in a heart beat! Lastly, we can’t talk about age worthy wines without mentioning Nebbiolo. The austere tannins transform into silk when given enough time in bottle. I have so many favorites, but since I have to, M. Marengo’s Brunate Riserva Barolo 2010 is pretty spectacular. I should have waited a few more years to dive into this bottle, but I have no regrets, it was amazing even now. I can’t wait to drink it again in 5-10 years.

What interesting trends/themes are going on in the wine world?

My customers are educated wine drinkers and they are familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. What they are looking for now is something new, something different. Dry red Portuguese wines made from indigenous grapes like Touriga Franca and Touriga National are becoming popular. Dry Hungarian wines known as Tokaji Furmint is something I am getting asked a lot about as well. Fairly new for this area, the dry style is exciting and relatively unchartered territory.  

Ordering Wine at a restaurant: 

Whenever I go to a restaurant that has a Sommelier, I involve them. They made the list and are proud of it. The wines on that list have been hand selected by that Sommelier, and I am always looking to try wines I’ve never had before. I let the Sommelier know what I am eating, how much I’d like to spend, and sometimes (but not always) the region I’d like to order from. I try to match the region’s cuisine to the region’s wine. 

If you go to a restaurant without a Sommelier and you are a novice, ask your server. If that server doesn’t know, there is usually someone they work with who is dying to tell you about a wine they just had. It’s important to give a budget. There is great wine for $30 or $100 on the list, but if your server doesn’t know how much you want to spend, it can be a frustrating ordering process for both yourself and the server.

If you are a novice and interested in food and wine, come see me for a tasting and I’ll show you how to work your way through a wine list!  

If you are looking to learn more about wine my advise is this: Drink a lot of wine and pay attention to what you are drinking! Region and Grape Variety are the 2 most important things to pay attention to when first starting out. Try buying Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon from different parts of the world and see if there is one you like over the other. It’s a fun process of trial and error. And if one wine is not your favorite, at least you still get a buzz. 

Come into Abaco Wines & Wine Bar for our classes and tastings. We hold weekly tastings Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6-7:30. The tastings are only $25 and FREE if you spend $50 in the store the day of the tasting. Happy Drinking. Cheers!