Name: Hugh Preece
Nationality: North American
At the moment: USA-NJ-CA
Currently: Wine Director / Operating Partner at Salt Creek Grille
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first encounter with wine happened as a young teen growing up in Washington, DC. A family friend of my parents had purchased a farm in Virginia and my brother and I worked on the farm clearing, prepping and planting vines for wine growing. It wasn't till college did I cross paths with wine again. I was working in a bar in Georgetown, a neighborhood in Washington, DC, that was owned by T.Gregory Smith, who was passionate about his wine. He graciously took me under his wing educating me on wine and the restaurant industry, it was his influence that changed my career of engineering to restaurateur. It wasn't till later in my life that I formally studied wine with Court of Master Sommeliers and most recently Vinitaly International Academy becoming an Italian Wine Ambassador.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
I feel that a sommelier needs to be a people person, someone who's able to connect with each guest; an educator, someone who teaches not only the staff but the guests about new experiences that meets the guests needs; and lastly, a conductor, someone who assists in creating the experience for the guest.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
My advice to a young somm would be to stay grounded. Being a sommelier is not about you it's about the wine and the guest. Be prepared to dedicate your personal time in the study process.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
A good sommelier will build a relationship by communicating and listening to the guest. What they plan to eat or wine preferences, then giving suggestions and guide them to a final selection allowing them to be part of the process.
What's your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
I believe that every wine should be served in the appropriate glass, except the champagne flute, I'm not a fan. Particular brand name, I don't find this as important because they all produce good quality.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
My advice to food and wine pairing is to not think too deeply about it, once you do, it's not worth it. Think about what's driving the experience, choose the wine and base the food on that or choose the food and select the wine based on that.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
I believe that a sommelier should taste the wine prior to the guest sampling however, understand that it depends on the venue.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
There are multiple outlets for job searches- Wine Jobs, GuildSomm, Zeitgeist, LinkedIn
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
Menu plays a big role and then guest preferences and trends. Not all wines are being consumed with food, another btg consideration. Mark ups on wines can be out of control with some markups being 4x the cost. We like to keep the inventory fresh so we will mark up 2.75x on low cost wine while the higher end being 1.5x.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I read daily articles online from outlets like Decanter, Wine Spectator, etc. Also, taste regularly with salesmen however, I don't let them bring me what's dictated to them to sell rather I request tastings of wine trends I read about.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what's the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
To get my attention, I look for quality, value, environmental influence and the story behind the label. I look for the smaller producers, ones that have a true connection with the place and the variety. I love the passion they express when discussing every aspect of the process, from growing to selling.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
If I was a variety it would be Aglianico-Floral, Savory with pronounced minerality; I age well, full-bodied wine, firmly structured with high, powerful tannins marked by acidity
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what's your desert island wine?
At home one would find Aglianico del Vulture, Soave/Classico and Chablis.
My desert wine, at the moment, would be Cincinnato Castore, inexpensive, high quality wine from Lazio.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Vinous, Decanter, Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Winefolly.com.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at/english/sommelier-jobs/