Lady Somm Style: Dana Frank

Dana Frank is a busy lady. She’s the wine director of Ava Gene’s in Portland, co-owner (with husband Scott) of Bow & Arrow Wines, and mom to Orly. Her wine list at AG is strictly Italian, so she certainly has a soft spot in her little wine-soaked heart for vino. My kind of lady! Dana has a palate and approach to wine that I respect and am inspired by. She is the perfect example of the modern sommelier-  without attitude (or a suit)- just pure passion for her wines and her guests. And always a big smile.

dana

How did you become a sommelier?

I became interested in wine because I’ve always loved food and cooking. I returned to Oregon in 2003 after almost four years in the peace corps in Romania. I was sort of in shock being back in the U.S. and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with myself, so I took a paid apprenticeship as a pantry and pastry cook in Bend, in central Oregon. After a year as a pastry chef, and ungodly hours in a small kitchen with four male cooks, I was really craving the interaction with guests in the dining room. I left the kitchen and took a job at another restaurant in Bend, this time as a server with no wine experience. But I fell into the right place at the right time, trained by front-of-house professionals from San Francisco and Jackson Hole.  And I was tasting and talking about wine all the time. With support and encouragement from my co-workers and tasting group I took my Level 1 exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers and moved to Portland after passing.

Since being here, I’ve passed my Certified Exam and have worked in most facets of the wine business. My husband, Scott, and I were both retail buyers back in the day. I worked for Triage Wines, a now-defunct importer and wholesaler representing the likes of Louis/Dressner, Skurnik and José Pastor. I was the direct sales manager for the Casteel family at Bethel Heights Vineyard. And in 2010, Scott and I started our winery, Bow & Arrow. Scott makes Loire-inspired wines with fruit from the Willamette Valley at our winery in Portland, and I help where needed. After nearly 10 years working in wine, I’ve realized my heart lies in the restaurant business, and I’m now running my fifth wine program. It’s my favorite job, being a wine director and a sommelier, and although it’s not a job that gets quite as much play in Portland as it does in other cities, I really can’t imagine doing anything else. I go to work everyday, excited to do what i’m doing, grateful to be learning.

What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?

Portland is really casual, so I try to strike a balance between dressed-down and professional. Our front-of-house staff can wear anything they want, so I follow suit, in my own way. I generally wear skinny jeans or printed pants with heeled booties or clogs and some kind of a fun, bright-colored top, or a classic white t-shirt. The focal point of Ava Gene’s is a wood-burning hearth at the chef’s counter, so the restaurant always feels warm. As a result, I wear a sleeveless shirt most nights. Sometimes I’ll throw on a pencil skirt with a simple tank top, or a knee-length dress, but I find pockets totally necessary for my job, so pants are my go-to.

My make-up routine is spartanly simple, and I don’t even wear lipstick (I hate the half-worn-off look in the middle of service), so my face is the same whether I’m working or not. I love a good statement piece of jewelry. Depending on the day, it’s either a short, chunky necklace, or a long delicate necklace and gold or silver hanging earrings. Since I have short hair, I wear a necklace or earrings everyday, as well as my wedding rings and, lately, a big vintage navajo turquoise ring on my right hand.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

I can get away with wearing the same outfit day to evening for service. During the rainy season, I’ll often wear rain wellies and bring my work shoes with me. My admin days normally end around 6pm, so I usually wear sneakers or boots those days, and if I’m hanging in the warehouse schlepping wine or doing inventory, I’m almost always in a sweater or sweatshirt and a scarf.

dana b/w

 What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant? 

  1. Pencil case (holds pencils, pens, wine key, and chapstick)
  2. Phone
  3. Contact lens case and glasses. My 12-hour shifts are brutal on my lenses.

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Be a know-it-all. The world of wine is massive, and we can always, always learn more. I can’t stand competitively talking about wine. That whole “I’ve drunk that wine, I know this winemaker, I have 15 vintages of x in my cellar” drives me bonkers.

2. Overtalk. Read your guest and know how much information they want from you, and how they want you to interact with them. I think being a great somm is about giving your guests an experience, not a lesson.

3. Make a guest keep a wine they aren’t enjoying. I’d rather take a wine back, pour it by the glass, sample it to staff, share it with other guests, than force a table to drink and pay for a wine that won’t contribute positively to their evening.

What wine (or wine region) on your list at Ava Gene’s is exciting you the most right now?

It’s a three-way toss-up: Sardinia, especially some of the bright, fresh versions of Cannonau and Bovale now available on the West coast. Northern Piedmont, because I’ve been incredibly excited about some offbeat things like Avana and Bequet as of late. And the Langhe, for the stunning Rieslings and Riesling blends that are perfect for this time of year. But, It’s actually really too hard to choose what I’m most excited about. Writing a list that’s 100% Italian means there’s something piquing my interest, pushing my button every week. A few weeks ago it was Marsala and Sagrantino.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

Either a glass of white or rosé while i’m buttoning up at work, or a Negroni or rye whiskey on the rocks after my shift.

Photos by Travis Blue

Lady Somm Style: Colleen Hein

Been trying to diversify and represent a variety of US cities in this here series. So, I’m so happy we are following up Austin with Boston’s Colleen Hein, Wine Director of Eastern Standard. Classy lady alert!

How did you become a sommelier?

I have been working in various types of restaurants for well over a decade now.  It was, however, when I began at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square-a bustling brasserie a stone’s throw from Fenway Park in the fall of 2005 that I really began to take an interest in wine.  At the start of my serving career at ES, I was also finishing up my schooling for a “real job” in skincare and aesthetics. However, I found myself too attached to the hospitality industry to leave and decided shortly thereafter to dive head first and fully into a restaurant career.  I knew I needed a niche, a piece of the pie that I could call my own, and in turn moved into a management position that would later groom me into taking over the wine program -and yes, in turn leaving all that I had invested an enormous amount of time in behind.

I have completed and received certification for the four levels of the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Program at Boston University. I have passed the introductory course through the Court of Master Sommeliers, with the plan to receive my official certification this July.  I seek as many courses, classes, and tastings outside of the restaurant as much as possible, though it is still within the restaurant’s walls and amongst the staff that I still find the most growth and reward in my position.

What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?

My look as undoubtedly changed over the years!  There was a time when heels were the norm in my daily wardrobe but alas, my feet could only take so much.  Now, cute flats (multiple in black) that have subtle details that I can tie into my accessories are my go-to foot ware.  Blazers and slacks, always –turtlenecks and sweaters in the cooler months, and brightly colored breezy dresses in the spring and summer.  I must rock my Michelle rose gold watch and always a bright matte lip in red/orange or pink.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

For the most part my wardrobe stays the same throughout the day though I do tend to keep a sweater or blazer on hand to toss on if I am spending an extended amount of time in the cellar, which also doubles as my office – it keeps an appropriately chilly temperature!  I will usually bring a change of clothes if I am counting inventory as I am often either crouching to count lower bottles lying down deep within the cellar shelves or perched on top of a ladder counting stashed cases.

 What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant? 

  1. My way too geeky giant clip board with daily to-do list on top.
  2. Burt’s Bees pomegranate lip balm.
  3. Bobby pins for the occasional re-pinning of my French twist or bun.

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Assume which one person will be in control of ordering wine at a table.  Whether guests are a bit skeptical or pleasantly surprised when I approach to talk confidently about my wine list, I like to read the table as well  encourage group effort on choosing the bottle(s) – after all, it’s a very important decision that can be fun if the responsibility is shared by all!

2. Wear too high or absurd of a heel (my former self would guffaw at this!)

3. Wear long necklaces that can take a dip in a guests’ food or beverage- yes, it has happened.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

I tend to sneak what is looking good on a given day from the raw bar on the half shell i.e. oysters and clams.  Steak tartare accompanied with a glass of light red I’ve given a good chill to usually fits the bill if I need a bit more of a protein kick after a long day.  But never frites- they are a major weakness and of course you know you can never have just one…

Photo by Kristen Teig

Lady Somm Style: June Rodil

It’s about high time we showed a little love to the Lone Star State! I can think of no other lady somm worthy of the spotlight than Miss June Rodil, General Manager and Wine Director of the very soon-to-be opened Qui in Austin, Texas. Giddy up!

How did you become a sommelier?

My story is pretty similar to most, I think. I was a cocktail waitress at the Driskill Hotel in college and then slowly began climbing the ranks into the fine dining room, then I became a Captain, and then got a knack for pairing wines for guests. I loved remembering what a guest had to drink previous time they came in to dine and then would coax them into something new every time they came in. It was a great way to get to know our regular patrons without delving into personal lives (does that sound weird?).

After graduation, I applied to law school and go accepted. I had a minor breakdown while I was getting ready to relocate: why leave a city I love (Austin, TX), and why leave a career path I’m truly passionate about? So, yeah. I stayed. I walked my ass to Uchi and told them they needed a Beverage Director and that it was me. They didn’t have a “position of that nature” at the beginning, but were open to it so I started off as a waitress. A few months after starting at Uchi, I entered a competition for Texas Best Sommelier…and won. So, when I went back to work, I asked them to make a business card for me with the title. After that, I grew to become the Beverage Director of the company. I left three years later to open Congress Austin, and am now in the process of opening Qui with my homie, Paul Qui.

What’s your go-to look/daily uniform for work?

Totally depends on the day, but…

Clothes: POCKETS! I have to have them. Not only is it handy for your wine key, I have a bad habit of gesticulating with my hands like a fool, so it’s nice to have a place for my hands. I love bright colors and comfort. It’s hella hot in Texas, so if there’s a flowy neon dress with pockets, I will probably buy it. I despise suits, but will wear them for professional conferences and competitions. I feel trapped and man-ish in them. Also–the scarf is the way. It’s my “flare.” If I find myself in a clothing rut (and sometimes I do) I usually get a new, colorful, patterned scarf to cheer me up. It’s also quite practical. It’s hot outside, so people blast their a/c indoors. A scarf is perfect for that.

Hair: I got lots!  It’s either in a messy bun on the top of my head with a headband to accessorize and hide the stress bands, or, I’ll wear it down if I’m at an event and/or find time to fix it.

 

Jewelry: Minimal. I wear a ring from my boyfriend that he had one of our friends make for me. It’s silver and very delicate and unobtrusive, and small earrings–I’ve got some bumblebees and wishbone earrings that I love wearing. I fear dangly earrings at work. I can just see myself getting caught in something and ripping earhole. Gnarly. If I’m feeling sassy, I also have a blinged out Swarovski crystal Hello Kitty ring for some whimsy.

 

Shoes: I start with ballet flats and move to heels during service…and then back to ballet flats. The heels feel heinous, but I have a penchant for expensive shoes. I’m Filipino, and thus have an inherent dream of being Imelda Marcos.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

God yes. If it’s inventory and I know I’ll be hauling around boxes of booze for long hours, I’ll straight up show up to work in yoga pants, a hoodie, and sneakers. Being comfortable makes things go faster. Plus, I don’t want to appear disheveled and wrinkled by the time service comes around. There’s a great many things that happen to make service go seamlessly, but a guest shouldn’t have to know that–they should just see the end result. I believe in looking as well kept as possible makes you feel good and helps you put guests at ease and, ultimately, provide them with a great experience.

 What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant? 

Pockets, wine key, phone.

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Frown–we work with wine for godsakes! What have we got to frown about???

2. Crappy, chipped, loud nail polish.

3. Take yourself too seriously.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

Right now, Riesling. It’s about to be the Summer of, ya know. It reenergizes me at the end of the night. After working 12 hours, a little acid and sugar gets me going. We serve Robert Weil Riesling Tradition btg, so you may find me pouring a glass of that at the end of the night.

Photos by Jennifer Day

Lady Somm Style: Carlin Karr

This edition of Lady Somm Style is one of my favorites yet! Carlin Karr, of Frasca in Boulder, has some great insight into her life as a sommelier. And I love her sense of style! I feel like we are style sisters. If that’s even a thing. Ballet flats for life!

How did you become a sommelier?

During my senior year of college, I became obsessed with cooking and throwing epic dinner parties.  I decided to move to San Francisco in 2008 after graduation and enrolled in culinary school.  A few months in to culinary school, we had wine class – I was instantly obsessed.  I immediately dropped out of culinary school to pursue wine.  I had never worked in a restaurant before so it was pretty much impossible to get hired in any position at any restaurant in San Francisco.  I relentlessly applied to any wine-related jobs while studying wine independently.  After passing my certified sommelier exam in 2009, I was introduced to Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarity through mutual friends.  Matt and Teague were opening a small restaurant in San Francisco, also with very limited prior experience and were willing to take a chance on me.  The three of us opened Sons & Daughters in May 2010 and somehow managed to earn a michelin star and the enthusiastic support of the Bay area food and wine community.  I was the General Manager and Wine Director for Sons & Daughters until May 2012, when I moved to Colorado to take the sommelier position at Frasca.

What’s your daily uniform for work?

Clothes: I’m all about tailored, feminine, and functional silhouettes for work.  There is no specific dress code for the wine team at Frasca, so there is a lot of freedom.  I think the biggest challenge for me has been appearing professional and mature while staying true to my style.  I generally try to avoid anything too girly or cutesy, but always want to be feminine and in flattering silhouettes – most first time guests are surprised to realize I’m the sommelier since I look like I’m 19 years old – It always makes for an interesting initial interaction.  I wear tailored dresses and a-line skirts with cardigans/blazer or a slim cut pixie pant suit.  I absolutely can’t wear something without pockets and sometimes take dresses or skirts to my tailor to have pockets added.  My go-to pieces come from J.Crew, Club Monaco, Vince, and Philip Lim.  I also love buying great bags and belts when I’m in Italy at Bugatti in Udine.  I’m a lifelong J.Crew devotee,  and love how classic yet sharp their clothes are.  I wear a blazer or cardigan over my Navy blue J.Crew Allie dress (sadly discontinued)  a lot – it’s perfect: lightweight wool, pockets, and super feminine.  I also have the same dress in blood orange, which I love wearing on the busiest nights.  I also love my Vince leather ‘boxer’ skirt – its a bit more edgy but still understated and has hidden pockets. I used to avoid pant suits because almost all of them feel awkward and masculine, but have started to love the chic silhouette and functionality of a modern pixie cut pant suit, especially because it allows me to ride my bike to work.

Hair : I always have my hair pulled back in a low chignon or in a simple ballerina bun.  I know a lot of women in the hospitality business wear their hair down, but at the end of the day, we are serving food and the chance of stray hairs landing in a guests food or wine is not okay.

Jewelry : Super simple – just my Datejust watch and a David Yurman citrine ring from my mom.

Shoes: BALLET FLATS – I was born in ballet flats.  I can’t imagine wearing anything else at work – they make me feel light on my feet and don’t leave much potential to slip and fall in the back of the house.   My favorites are from Tory Burch, Lanvin, and Vera Wang.  I commend any sommeliers who wear heels, but know that I will never have the grace or coordination to work a busy night in anything but flats.

Make-up: I keep make-up super simple- eyeliner, mascara, and concealer.  I also whiten my teeth almost everyday because I am paranoid about having the wretched purple teeth of many seasoned somms.

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

With the exception of inventory, I usually go to work dressed for service.  The hours prior to service always seem to fly by, so I usually don’t have time to change.  Two of the three Frasca businesses (Frasca Caffe and Pizzeria Locale) are open during the day so I inevitably interact with guests and regulars, and prefer to be dressed in the same way I would be during service.  That being said, Boulder is an extremely small town, and I rarely leave home without running into Frasca guests, which definitely makes me more conscientious of my appearance on days off – something I never thought twice about when living in San Francisco.

What are the three things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?

1. My Cartailler-Deluc Couteau sommelier wine-key.  It’s the only one I’ll ever use – simple, understated, and lightweight.

2. Great lip balm – my favorites are Trish McEvoy and Guerlain.

3. Tide-Pen. If I am wearing a white blouse, without fail, I will splatter red wine on it.  I also sometimes offer it to guests who spill on themselves – It happens to the best of us.  The Tide Pen works (and works better than Wine-Away.)

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1. Have too much to drink during service. It’s sloppy, unprofessional, and embarrassing.

2. Draw attention to themselves or make it “about them” rather than “about the guests” – humble, thoughtful hospitality is always at the core of the best wine service, yet so few sommeliers perfect it.  Aldo Sohm, Alan Murray, and Yoon Ha exemplify the perfect combination of humility, knowledge, and style on the floor.

3. Perfume is never okay – neither is bad breath.

What do you usually drink and/or eat at the end of a shift?

I sit down for dinner every night with our owners, GM, bar manager, and fellow sommelier.  Our chefs are incredibly hospitable and make us whatever we want to try from the menu – such a luxury.  We always try various wines with dinner and enjoy each others company.  On Saturday nights, Bobby (owner and Master Sommelier), Matthew (wine director) and I blind taste a flight of 6 wines – 3 whites, 3 reds – not from our wine list to fine tune our skills.  I’ve learned more about wine from doing this with them than I would have ever expected.  We are all super passionate and competitive so it’s a fun ritual.  Needless to say, this means that I often find myself sipping on all types of classic wines, from Bordeaux to Australian Riesling.