Name: Emily Wines
Location: NIOS Restaurant and Wine Bar, New York, NY
Occupation: Master Sommelier
How and when did you begin your love affair with wine? Wine became my beverage of choice in 1997, after my first trip to France. From there I began studying it--first to be a better waitress, and then because I was so fascinated with the subject. I think of wine as the most ironic art form; so much goes into this art, and the only way to appreciate it is to consume it. Then it becomes just a memory.
Tell us about what you had to do to earn the much sought-after Remi Krug Cup. Earning the Remi Krug Cup took an amazing combination of study, luck, and the right frame of mind. To earn this I had to pass all three parts of the Master Sommelier exam on my first try. The exam is comprised of three parts: Service, theory, and tasting. The Service portion is just like being in a restaurant, where tables of "guests" ask for wine pairing suggestions, we decant and serve wines, we suggest spirits. It takes being on your toes. The theory portion is oral, and comprised of what seems like a thousand questions about everything pertaining to wine--wine law, soil types, geography, grapes, and history. The tasting is the shortest and most stressful part. Six wines are lined up and I had 25 minutes to examine the wines, while talking about the process, and identify the wine by grape, region, and vintage.
You are one of only 19 women in the U.S. who have earned the prestigious title of Master Sommelier. What would you do to encourage other women to take on the challenge? Time commitment is certainly a big issue. I can't recommend enough that a person preparing for the exam find a group to study and taste with; I don't know if there is anything specific in this for women. There is so much room for us at the top of the wine profession and the glass ceiling is rapidly disappearing.
You are hosting a serious of monthly Sommelier Smackdowns at Nios Restaurant where you go head to head with a challenger to design pairings for a three-course meal. Tell us about the next one. I am so excited about the next Smackdown! I invite different beverage experts to Nios to have a battle over pairings. I have done this with mixologists, sake experts, sommeliers and beer gurus. We argue the merits of our pairing and leave it to the guests to vote on the winner. On the 25th of August, I will be battling the mixologist Jim Meehan from PDT. This time we are doing it with no rules! We are not restricting ourselves to our disciplines, but rather taking on all beverages. It promises to be dramatic. I even have a bedazzled wrestler belt for the winner!
What have been some of your favorite pairings from the smackdowns you've hosted so far, either yours or someone else's? I loved the dark beer spritzed with hazelnut liquor that Sebbie Buhler from Rogue Ales did with the chocolate peanut butter crepes. I also really liked both pairings for the scallops and summer minestrone that mixologist Morgan Young and I did. I served Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc, a white Bordeaux, and she served a beautiful, citrusy cocktail of pepper vodka and herbs. Both worked so great. That is what I love about the Smackdown--it goes to show that there is no one thing that pairs best.
Describe your dream New York meal. A moving feast of all my favorite wino friends--starting at Momofuku for pork buns. Then to Fatty Crab for watermelon and pork belly salad. Then we would head to dell'Anima for any pasta followed by Eleven Madison Park for Duck and back to Momofuku Milk Bar for dulce de leche cake. Serious diet blowing meal!
Favorite burger? Burger Joint cheeseburger! Amazing spot in Le Parker Meridien. It is only $7 for the burger and you must wash it down with a pitcher of beer.
Favorite bagel? Russ & Daughters's poppy seed bagel with scallion cream cheese and gravlax. The bagels are always so soft, and the gravlax is specked with dill and just salty enough.
Best late-night eats? The kati rolls from the Biryani Cart on 46th and 6th (OMG,so good) Be sure to ask for the spicy lamb rolls. They are little spicy pillows of goodness.
Undiscovered gem? Vai Restaurant is this neighborhood spot on 77th Street that is perfect for summer dining. They make this whole roasted branzino that is just delicious.
What's in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? Petrified condiments of every nationality.
Food you won't eat? That is a tough one.... Fast food, I guess. I am down with greasy, but not greasy and tasteless.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? Sommeliers always have the best recommendations. I always go to my favorite eating buddy--Heather Branch from Eighty One.
What's the best recommendation he/she has given you? The Spotted Pig. I try to eat there as much as possible.
The next Sommelier Smackdown is Tuesday, August 25th at Nios Restaurant, at 130 West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. $55 includes a three course seasonal menu from Chef Patricia Williams and all beverage pairings. Cocktails start at 6:30 pm; dinner starts at 7:00 pm. For reservations, please call the restaurant at (212) 485-2999.
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