As a sommelier, I have heard from people that I have the best job in the world. I do! I get to talk about wine, beer and liquor for a living! However, most people only see me on the floor of the Club or meeting with vendors. They don’t see all the real heavy lifting that goes on behind the scenes.
Making the job look easy
That is the point. Hospitality is a show. All the preparation that goes into a single shift or event is to make that night seamless. My job is 30% spreadsheets, 5% tasting wine and about 65% herding cats.
Excel, a sommelier’s best friend
Have you ever went cross-eyed staring at the computer screen, reviewing a spreadsheet your boss has sent out? That is a daily event for me, with ordering, sales reports, and wine list maintenance. As a “Somm,” you learn very quickly that Excel is your best friend, but also your nemesis. The blue-hued light of the computer screen really takes a toll on your eyes, only to go into the dimly lit restaurant floor and run dinner service. Don’t forget about the late nights counting all your inventory and trying to track down a few missing bottles.
Wine tasting, the most fun part of the job
Ah, yes. “Shopping,” as I call it. Tasting the wines is definitely the fun part of the job, but sadly, such a small percentage of my time. Whether it is tasting the new vintages of old favorites, or looking for a new item to put on the list, it is the highlight of my day. I have spit more wine in the last 10 years than most people consume in a few years.
Be prepared for the unexpected
All of the planning you put into the shift will not survive the arrival of the first reservation. Whether it is someone calling out sick for the night, or a large table shows up late on a busy night, you have to be flexible. Always have a backup plan. As the somm, you are the backup for your team. Don’t be surprised to see your sommelier behind the bar making drinks, bussing tables, taking orders and seating tables, sometimes in the same hour.
And there is still more to do
That is the recap of my average week. That also doesn’t include study time for exams and that little thing called sleep. Hoist a beer and a shot to your favorite somm! They will need it by the end of the night!
Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”