5 Questions with Sommelier Rachael Lowe
I’m Rachael Lowe, Beverage Director of Spiaggia restaurant, also the Spiaggia Café and Private Dining Events. We’ve been open for 31 years now, and I am the 4th Beverage Director here so it’s quite an honor to say that and to work with Tony Mantuano.
Q1: When did you know that you wanted to work with wine professionally?
I started as a server in fine dining restaurants when I first lived in Chicago and kind of worked my way up through that. I went to graduate school at NYU so I was there for 4 years and it was there that I actually got my first assistant sommelier position. I had been studying wine for a while independently and had done some courses but it wasn’t until I actually got into that position that I realized I could make it a career. From there I worked my way through various restaurants in New York, Napa and then came back to Chicago. It’s been pretty cool.
Q2: What does the word Sommelier mean to you?
It’s gotta be somebody who is so knowledgeable about wine obviously, but also is able to assist anybody in what they like and kind of figure out everyone’s palate without brining in any kind of snobbiness. There is a lot more behind being a sommelier than just working the floor and knowing about wine. There’s a lot of slugging of cases, and stocking and inventory, and administrative stuff that is behind the scenes that not a lot of people are aware of. That is all lumped in to that title.
Q3: Spiaggia just won a major wine award – what’s it like working with such a prestigious list?
It was within the world of fine wines – 100 Best Wine Lists in the World – that was quite an honor. And I believe in the upcoming August issue of Wine Enthusiast we are in the 101 Best Wine List issue too, so that’s a really awesome thing to be a part of.
What’s it like working with that type of wine list? Is there added pressure?
There’s pressure because there are people who come in and either know or don’t know a lot about wine, but pick apart your wine list, or really love it and there are extremes. I think that it’s very positive in a lot of ways and I’m lucky to be able to work with a list of this caliber. But there are always people looking for negatives too so you just have to turn that around. We have such an amazing diverse Italian program, and I’ve introduced some international selections to the back of the list too, nothing New World, but just French wines and things like that that I think work with the food. So it’s really great having the autonomy here, and it’s just such a wonderful place to be.
Q4: What did you drink last night and why?
What did I drink last night? I know that I tasted a sample bottle with a rep who was kind enough to leave it with me, so it was a Donnafugata, Grillo, Sicily 2014 so just a bright, white summery acidic pretty wine, new to the market so that was fun. I actually also had a sip of Cabanon Bonardo, Oltrepo Pavese, Lombardia 2009, that was delicious as well. And then I went to sleep.
Q5: Food and wine pairing not to be missed on your menu?
Good question. I really love the sacchette – it’s kind of like a beggars purse – braised rabbit and these little packets of pasta. It’s really beautiful with braised vegetables, and it actually had some green components to it as well as mushroom. I thought it would go well with a white so I’m doing international wines right now on the pairing so it’s with Emmerich Knoll, Smaragd, Gruner Veltliner, it’s really lovely.