Wine sommeliers are the understated cool kids of the restaurant industry. Everyone forgets about them, but every high-end restaurant has one. Lurking in the corners of dark wine cellars, these experts are there to assist guests with ordering vino.
You'd think the type of people who fall into this profession are just introverted bookworms, but as we found out with Chris Birnie-Visscher, that's not always the case.
The young sommelier at DB Bistro Moderne let Short Order in on some of his deep, dark secrets.
In wine talk, snobbery is key. What fun is calling yourself an enophile if you can't pick out the lychee bouquets in a Gewürztraminer? But, Birnie-Visscher says, "I really look forward to meeting guests who have not had any exposure to wine."
He goes on to say exactly what we hoped he'd admit for all of us newbies: "For a guest who is taking their first steps into wine, it can be extremely intimidating."
Phew. Glad he said it.
"I want to make the experience as fun and simple as possible."
Having worked in Tennessee and Canada before returning to his native Florida, Birnie-Visscher is bringing nearly a decade of hospitality and wine knowledge to DB. He holds certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers and experience as assistant sommelier at Café Boulud in Palm Beach. As for his roots, his family is from South Africa.
"I have a small place in my heart for South African wines, especially whites," he says.
Asked whether DB's wine cellar would get a makeover under his instruction, he said, "I'm always on the lookout for wines that can provide depth and structure to our portfolio. Every wine-producing country is extremely diverse in their production. I look to showcase [it]."
But at the end of the day, when dinner service is over and the tall glass doors are closed at the JW Marriott's fine-dining restaurant, Birnie-Visscher removes the sommelier pin from his lapel and becomes just Chris.
As a non-sommelier and newly established Miami resident, he likes to dabble in the nutrition and fitness scene. "After completing my program through the Court of Master Sommeliers, I would like to go back to school to become a registered dietitian," he shares. No word yet on what he thinks of the antioxidant properties in red wine, but we'll take a wild guess and say it's positive.
After talking about wine and future endeavors in different industries and hobbies, Short Order was desperate to squeeze out a secret from the well-mannered man. Surely there has to be a funky bone in his body that lets him loosen up and have a little fun from time to time.
We thought we saw a hint of stardom in him. Turns out our hunch was correct. "How did you know I was good at karaoke?"
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It takes one to know one, we thought.
"My all-time best performance is when I perform Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' onstage. But that's our little secret."
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