Today we are introducing a good friend and new writer to the Living team, Jonathan Feiler, Director of Wine Education & Head Sommelier at Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI. We are excited to be working with him on his “Wine with Somm Jonathan” series as he will be giving us tips on working with Sommeliers, how to make the most of a tasting and wine education. Below, enjoy Jonathan’s first blog post on how to find your perfect wine by talking with a Sommelier…

My mission is to break the restaurant Sommelier stereotype, making the wine buying experience in a restaurant painless and fun. I have been a professional Sommelier for 10 years from New Orleans to Las Vegas, and for the past 3 years, as the Wine Director of the Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI. Over the years I have met many people from all different walks of life and there is a commonality is their response when having to choose wine. They refer to it as “the hardest decision they had to make all day”, when it doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few tips on talking to a Sommelier and getting the wine you are looking for:

The key to talking to a Sommelier is trust, both for them and you. A Sommelier, like any sales person, has only seconds to gain your trust and they know it. At the same time, the Sommelier is sizing you up. A good Sommelier will be able to assess your needs very quickly. Once you have established the trust, be honest about what type of experience you are looking for. This is the fun part, the time that you and the “Somm” can start discussing your likes and dislikes, your price point (yes, we talk price), what you are eating (do you want to pair with your food) and if you are willing to step out of the box. Use the Sommelier to their max potential; the more information you provide, the better your experience.

So at this point you may be feeling nervous if you don’t know the lingo; “What if I sound stupid?”, “What if the dollar value is wrong?”, what if… what if? Don’t worry about it, the Sommeliers job is to help you achieve your ideal wine drinking experience and not judge. If you are still worried, here are some pointers on some classic language, pairings and prices:


  • language – light, mineral driven, apple, clean
  • pairings – seafood, poultry, salads
  • pricing –  from $6-$12 a glass and $30-$60 a bottle


  • language – light, clean, grapefruit, lemon, grass, mineral driven
  • pairings – shellfish, poultry, before a meal
  • pricing –  from $6-$12 a glass and $30-$60 a bottle


  • language – medium to full bodied, oaky, creamy, buttery
  • pairings – lobster, white meats, seafood
  • pricing –  from $8-$14 glass and $40-up by the bottle


  • language – light to medium bodied, cherry, fruity to earthy, floral
  • pairings – poultry, light beef dishes, mushrooms, pork
  • pricing –  from $10-$20 by the glass, $40-up by the bottle


  • language – medium to full bodied, blackberry, chocolate, coffee, mint
  • pairings – beef, roasted poultry
  • pricing –  from $10-$15 by the glass, $40-up by the bottle


  • language – full bodied, cassis, blackberry, raspberry, herbs
  • pairings – beef, bbq
  • pricing –  from $10-$20 by the glass, $50-up by the bottle

Now that you are armed with some basic language, how do you use it? Here is how it plays out… The Sommelier knows more about the wines they sell than you do, let them guide you.

jf1For example, tell them you are eating a steak and you prefer a wine that is fruit forward, full bodied, with a rich tannin structure (dry), in the $60 range for a bottle. The Sommelier may recommend a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot from California or something a bit more “out-of-the-box” such as an Italian Amarone or a Cabernet Sauvignon from France. If the wine recommended sounds good and is in your price range, I highly recommend taking the risk. A good establishment will put their money where their mouth is and take the wine back if you do not care for it.

At the Ocean House we are always turning our guests onto new wines. One of the biggest pleasures of my job is to have one of my guests try a wine that they have never had and be blown away. That “Aha Moment” that changes the way they enjoy wine forever. I invite you to come by the Ocean House and enjoy a glass of wine with me, I promise it will be a stress-free experience and the easiest decision you make all day!


If you are interested in participating in the Ocean House Farm and Vine complimentary classes visit their calendar of events here and here. Wine 101 will be held at Ocean House on May 16-17, 2014. Learn about the major wine-producing regions, the difference in geography and what to taste next.

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