Meet the Sommelier: Aldo Sohm of LE BERNARDIN and ALDO SOHM WINE BAR in NYC
Aldo Sohm is the wine director of three Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, where he oversees a wine collection of 15,000 bottles made up of 900 wine selections. He is also the face of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, a casual, convivial spot just steps away from Le Bernardin where guests can enjoy his approachable, meticulously crafted wine list. In addition to his work in the restaurant business, Sohm has collaborated with distinguished companies on various wine products, including ZALTO glassware, a Laguiole wine key and a Sohm & Kracher Grüner Veltliner. Sohm received the 2009 James Beard Award for "Outstanding Wine Service" and was the first representative of America to win the highly coveted title, "Best Sommelier in the World 2008," by the World Sommelier Association. Sohm was named "Best Sommelier in America 2007" after having upheld a similar title in his native Austria for four consecutive years starting in 2002, a feat never before or since accomplished.
Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Aldo Sohm about his career and his many accomplishments as a sommelier.
What special personal qualities or talents have enhanced your career?
Being very focused, determined and not giving up after a push back is very important. It's also essential to find perspective when faced with challenges and not to get dragged down by them - it's all about balance in life!
Who have been some of your professional mentors or individuals that have inspired your work?
Helmut Jörg, the Chef Sommelier from Arlberg Hospiz 5 star hotel in Austria (famous for its large format cellar) and Norbert Waldnig, a great coach who helped me train for sommelier competitions were big influences on me in my early career. Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin have also been important mentors to me. They are constantly evolving the restaurant. They're very nurturing and caring towards their team, who they treat as family, and are truly special people whose support I am very grateful for. I believe you can learn every day from many people. The beauty of working in a restaurant is you can meet new people each day and discover a different point of view. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open!
Tell us a little about your travel experiences.
When I travel, I aim to get the full picture of a region by exploring its cuisine, wine, beer, and culture. Travel inspires me and I like to try and translate that inspiration when I get back to Le Bernardin and Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. It could be a new wine, or even an interesting food pairing that I experienced. I recently went to the Cayman Islands for the annual Cayman Cookout food festival hosted by Eric Ripert. It's such a beautiful island and it's always a fun few days. I am traveling to Bordeaux where I'll visit some wineries and meet with some winemakers which I'm excited about. I try to get back to Austria at least once a year, and I love to explore different cultures and experience new places from the perspective of the locals. I like to check out a range of places from simple and casual, to more high end. I'm also an avid cyclist so on the weekends I get to explore the fantastic local scenery that we have on our doorstep here in the city and upstate!
Why do you find your career as a sommelier so rewarding?
It's more than a job for me, it's a lifestyle and a dream that I am lucky to get to live out every day. I get to meet great people from different cultures, taste the best and craziest wines, and eat Chef Eric Ripert's food on a daily basis. I help coach and train my team of sommeliers both for service, and also for different wine exams. I love the constant education that exists in this industry - there is always something to learn and something to teach, which to me, is very rewarding. I try to enjoy life to the fullest and appreciate every opportunity I have.
What is one of your favorite meals and what wine would you select for it?
It depends on where I am. I try not to stick with just one particular cuisine as there is so much to try. I love pasta, which I like to pair with a light Sangiovese from Tuscany and one of my guilty food pleasures would have to be sausages alongside a crisp beer. I also enjoy eating fish with a White Burgundy, Chablis or Grüner Veltliner. One of my favorite pairings at Le Bernardin is scallops with morels and Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon, Defaix 2000. It's just a perfect match!
To learn more about Aldo Sohm, visit his web site at http://aldosohm.com/.
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is located at 151 West 51st Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues) just steps away from Le Bernardin in the heart of Midtown. Call 212.554.1143, visit their web site at http://www.aldosohmwinebar.com/about. At Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, guests can enjoy a menu of simple and shareable dishes meant to complement and elevate an extensive and ever-changing wine list from Aldo and his team of sommeliers.
Photo Credit: Thomas Schauer