If you read yesterday’s blog post, you’ll know that the idea for the Taylored Wines Sommelier Series was born over dinner between myself and Alpana Singh. Most people know Alpana as a Master Sommelier, a restaurateur and/or the former host of Check, Please! and there’s no doubt that she’s built an incredibly successful career. I’m lucky to know her as a champion for female entrepreneurs, using her experiences to empower the next generation of women leaders.
We are thrilled to be working with such an amazing trailblazer this month and have compiled these 10 facts to help you understand why.
1. Alpana Singh is the youngest female to pass the Master Sommelier exam.
There are only 236 Master Sommelier’s in the world, and the exam’s pass rate is less than 10%! Alpana’s wine journey started in college when she realized that wine united her passions of travel, history, and food. She waited tables in college and then moved on to become wine sales clerk at Nielsen Bros Market in Carmel, CA.
At 23, Alpana moved to Chicago to become sommelier at world-renowned Everest Restaurant, and she passed her master sommelier exam during her fourth year on the job. She remained sommelier for an additional year before transitioning to a more corporate role within the restaurant group that owns Everest.
2. Alpana was Director of Wine and Spirits for Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group.
Lettuce Entertain You is a large restaurant group based in Chicago, IL. They have more than 90 restaurants in five different states, and Alpana’s duties included purchasing, beverage program development, and wine education. She stayed for five years, but then thought “What’s the next goal? What do I want to do next?”
3. Impressed yet? Get this – Alpana was the host of Check, Please! during this time too!
She took over as host of Check, Please! In 2003, the same year she passed her Master Sommelier exam. She balanced one year as a sommelier, followed by five years as wine director for an entire restaurant group, all while filming the multi-Emmy Award-winning show. I’m suddenly feeling like I need to work a little harder…
4. Alpana is now building her own restaurant empire.
In 2012 she opened The Boarding House, a wine-driven restaurant in the River North neighborhood. The restaurant has a wine bar on the first floor, a stunning dining room on the second floor, and a wine cave in the basement.
In February of 2015, Alpana opened her second restaurant, Seven Lions, on Michigan Ave. Seven Lions is a modern interpretation of the classic clubhouse restaurant where you can get anything from a grilled cheese sandwich to a filet mignon.
Alpana opened her third restaurant, Terra & Vine in Evanston, IL, in 2016. It’s a neighborhood restaurant offering rustic Italian-Mediterranean fare in a casual setting. The menu focuses on pasta, small plates, pizzas and specialties from the grill, and Alpana has a well-curated, mostly Italian wine list to complement the seasonal menu.
5. Alpana helped bring the James Beard Foundation Awards to Chicago.
In fact, Crain’s Chicago Business wrote an entire article about it: “Glad the James Beard fest is in Chicago? Thank Alpana Singh”.
It’s probably no surprise to learn that Alpana sits on the board of Choose Chicago. She is also a member of the Advisory Council for the Illinois Restaurant Association and an active supporter of Deborah’s Place.
6. Alpana was a judge on Food Network’s Food Truck Face Off.
Food Truck Face Off pits two teams against one another to win their own customized food truck. Hosted by Jesse Palmer, four teams with food truck dreams present their unique concepts to an expert panel of judges, but only two teams are chosen to face off in a truck-on-truck showdown. The team that makes the most money over the course of two intense days emerges victorious.
Alpana business accomplishments are impressive, but we’d be remiss not to dive into her wine philosophy.
7. What is the best wine Alpana has ever had?
I think that the best wine that you’ve had is really dependent on the surroundings in which you enjoyed it. I think the memory of wine is not necessarily the flavor in and of itself, but it’s the situations and surroundings of how you had it. It’s the circumstances of the evening or the moment, or the time frame, the people you enjoyed it with. I would say the most memorable bottles of wine are almost more about the moment in which you enjoyed it.
(Excerpt from Forbes Travel Guide)
8. What Alpana says distinguishes a $10 bottle from a $100 bottle.
When you start getting into pricier wines, it comes down to the exclusivity of the provenance — whether it be a vineyard that produces not a lot of fruit because of the age or the fact that it is a much-heralded vineyard, the fact that there is such tiny production or what have you. There is also the winemaking process itself that will add to the price point of the wine — that could be the use of oak barrels or if they’re aging it for an extended period of time.
Whereas your $10 bottle of wine, less is done to produce that bottle. I would say that a $10 bottle can certainly be delicious, but it won’t have the complexity or intensity or richness of a more expensive selection.
(Excerpt from Forbes Travel Guide)
9. Alpana Singh says the best thing about wine is…
It pulls you into the present moment. If you’re smelling and tasting properly, you’re not worrying about tomorrow, or bills, or the day-to-day. It requires you to clear your head, like a strange meditation or Zen, to relax in the moment, be present. The troubles of tomorrow can wait, I’m here now, with today.
(Excerpt from Monterey County Weekly)
And to leave you with one last interesting fact… we are lucky to have Alpana in the wine industry!
10. Alpana once planned to join the US Air Force!
Remember her love for travel? She thought the US Air Force might be the ticket. Fortunately, it didn’t work out and she discovered her passion for wine soon after.