Napa County, California
Sommelier at PRESS Napa Valley | YouTube Vlogger SOMMVIVANT
Enter Stage Right
Amanda was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia and has a background in theater and film. She moved to New York City and began working at the Core Club where she perfected her knowledge of wine and spirits. Later, a knowledgeable sommelier at Le Bernardin marked her passion forever.
The early years of her wine education were heavily focused on Old-World wines, with a strong emphasis on Burgundy and Bordeaux. But when she moved to California, she discovered the magnificent taste of Napa Valley wines and even a few Australian gems as well.
Amanda’s California education came from working with her colleagues Scott Brenner and Kelli White who developed the internationally recognized PRESS Restaurant Wine List. Kelli and Scott were hired by Leslie Rudd when they were in NYC to build an all-Napa Valley wine list reminiscent of something in Bordeaux or Burgundy.
New Thoughts for a New World
Amanda is among those with a new thought paradigm surrounding wine. She doesn’t think wines have any kind of superiority – no matter where they´re from and what kind of wine they are. The energy and spirit put into the bottle can be told from the very first pour.
She has recommended some interesting pairings as well. For Amanda the perfect food and wine combination is champagne and good oysters…or champagne and french fries...heck champagne goes well with just about anything fried! Like a Cru Beaujolais and roasted chicken or a good Syrah with perfectly roasted meat.
But one of her all-time favorite combinations is Whistlepig Rye whisky with salted caramel popcorn. There’s one for the list. In Amanda’s eyes, some of the most underrated wines are old Napa wines, specifically Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Though some people believe Napa wine doesn’t age well, it is simply not true, and has been proven wrong many times. Amanda also points out that accessibility to non-commercial wines is tough in the US. Mass market wines dominate the marketplace and it is hard for smaller niche wine producers to get their labels recognized or even have a place on the shelves.
Australian wines are also underrated for Amanda, because they are very technologically advanced in production and bottling.
If you ever travel to Australia, you’ll notice that screw caps are on nearly every single bottle they have. The reason cork alternatives have become so popular is because of a period of decreased quality cork manufacturing during the 1980’s. Basically, winemakers were tired of getting low quality corks that would cause TCA cork taint. Plus it is now confirmed that long term aging studies with cork alternatives have shown good results.
Amanda recommends a Napa Valley wine called Ad Vivum, a wine from long-time Napa Valley winemaker (former Dominus winemaker) Chris Phelps. Chris has earned a reputation for his ability to consistently produce unique wines that honestly reflect the terroir of their vineyard origin. The Ad Vivum, from the Sleeping Lady Vineyard in Yountville, just on the border of Oakville near the Dominus estate, is an old school wine with deep complexity, bright acidity and a rich tannic structure worthy of many decades of aging.
If you´re new to wine or just trying to grow your palate and experience, you need a trusted place to try great wine. Check out wine clubs like: Kermit Lynch Wine Club or weekly wine picks on shows like Amanda’s show, Sommvivant . [sAHm - vee - vahnt]
Vine to Table Enthusiasm
To Amanda, perhaps the most important person in the winemaking process is the farmer, as wine must begin with a good foundation. This isn’t to say it is the only important person; wine should be cared for all the way through its lifecycle, from healthy vines to proper distribution and retailers maintaining the wine in perfect cool and dry conditions. There is no cutting corners with good wine. Wine is a living organism and should be cared for as such.
When asked about the greatest challenges in the business, Amanda had this to say: One of the greatest challenges in this business is keeping my ego out of the equation. Somms tend to want to tell the whole story of wine. They can sometimes take guests on the wrong journey with too many words and not enough depth of how the wine will taste. Somms sometimes don't listen to their guests and that can spoil their experience while dining.
Amanda rates her customers’ experiences as extremely important. If someone is putting a lot of hard earned money in her hands she will not allow herself to disappoint. Amanda prides herself in giving her clients an experience they´ll feel great about and enjoy sharing with friends and family.
But Amanda´s greatest reward is the limitless experience she gains from working each day; learning something new every time she holds a bottle. Being an ambassador for a producer's wine allows her to recount their story about that wine to others, transferring some of the magic within each bottle to her clients.
Amanda, describe what wine means to you in one word.
“I think “craftsmanship” sums it up best for me. Wine is not a singular expression of one particular person or element, and each bottle embodies the craftsmanship of every individual that helped to create it. From the cooper who crafted the barrels to the vineyard manager who pruned the vines, wine is the culmination of expert craftsman working and fining tuning their skills to perfect this one thing every vintage. “