5 Questions With Sommelier Diana Hawkins
Hello my name is Diana Hawkins and I’m the sommelier at The Promontory in Chicago. The Promontory is a restaurant focusing on hearth to table dining, bringing back forgotten cooking techniques, dishes, styles of cuisine and putting them in a more modern context.
Q1: What does the word sommelier mean to you?
A sommelier is more than just somebody who can navigate a wine list; it should be somebody who can greet you at the door, recognize your anniversary in a very special way, help you navigate the 300 bottle wine list of course, but then also recommend scotches to you, talk to you about your favorite gin or beer of the month, let’s say, and also cap off the evening with a wonderful cappuccino, and just be a steward of service throughout the entire guest experience. The wine is the focus, but definitely more of an overall service experience focus too.
Q2: Who is your mentor and how have they shaped your career?
My mentor right now is Rachel Driver Speckan. I knew her when she was over at Lush Wine & Spirits and I worked with her at City Winery, and she’s the one who kind of got me on the path with the Court of Master Sommeliers and I did my Intro [Level 1 – Introductory Sommelier Course & Exam] at City Winery, and definitely was a huge mentor and force in me doing my Certified [Level 2 – Certified Sommelier Exam], which I passed last year – so yay! But without her I probably would not be here today. She’s just super supportive in every way.
Q3: If you could have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be, what would your pour and why?
My favorite author of all time is Oscar Wilde, and I would love to have wine with him. I would pour him a 1977 D’Oliveira Terrantez, which is a Madeira not like Torrontes from Chile, because it would be familiar to him because he’s probably had Madeira before, but probably not quite like this. I would ask him about A House Of Pomegrantes which is a book he wrote of fairy tales that no child could possibly understand but no adult would ever want to read. I just want to pick his brain about why he wrote it because I find the entire concept of a book without an audience fascinating.
Q4: Favorite touristy thing to do in the city?
Probably Millennium Park. I like the concerts there, I like the open grass field, I like that you can buy beer there too, so just kind of going over there and hanging out, and checking out the art work, the gardens, the music on a nice sunny day in Chicago, and the bean of course. It’s perfect.
Favorite beer right now?
Favorite beers… I’m kind of into sours and Gose right now. Off Color Troublesome is one of my favorites of the moment, as we are moving from stout season into more Gose and witbier season with the weather changing finally.
Q5: What food and wine pairing shouldn’t be missed in your menu?
We recently changed over our food menu for spring and one of our new spring dishes is a skirt steak grilled on the plancha served with long beans, a fried Goose Point oyster, herb pistou… so super fresh and springy and delicious and I would love to pair that with the Negroamaro we just put on by the glass. It’s 2008 vintage coming out of Puglia Italy by one of the oldest cooperatives in the area and it is just absolutely fantastic, so that pairing is really what I’m geeking out about right now.