Desi Echavarrie, named the Best Young Sommelier, talks about wine, dining, and service.
Earlier this year, the Court of Master Sommeliers named 22-year-old Desi Echavarrie Best Young Sommelier in a competition for wine stewards under age 32. Formerly with Mary Elaine's at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz., Echavarrie works at Picasso in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
Q Given your age, do guests ever doubt your abilities?
A Some people think a sommelier should be bald and French. That's ridiculous—some of the best sommeliers in the world are young women.
Q Why wine?
A I've always loved history, geography, and food; wine encompasses all of those things.
Q Tips for ordering in a restaurant?
A Don't be embarrassed to tell the sommelier your price range and offer some parameters. You'll get the best value for your money that way.
Q Whites with fish, reds with meat?
A As a rule of thumb, but then there are pinot noirs that go with fish and rich whites that work with steak.
Q What about sending wine back?
A I never have a problem—I've taken back $400, $500, and $800 bottles.
Q Where do you go for outstanding wine service?
A In Las Vegas, wine pairings are stellar at Renoir in the Mirage, and Aureole has over 100,000 bottles and a wine team of 10.
Illustration by Bill Russell
This article was first published in November 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.