What are some important non wine related things about you?
-I'm originally from Illinois, grew up right outside of Chicago. I have 2 brothers, 2 sisters and love my large Chicago family. I moved to New Orleans for college and have lived here for the last 10 years. I studied history and education and since then, have been a teacher, school administrator and now work at Hollygrove Market & Farm. I've always loved food and wine. Bittersweetly, I'll be moving to Florida this May. I'm engaged to Michael Pierce and will be getting married next spring. We're still trying to hammer out the details.
What are your hobbies?
-When I'm not working, I'm most likely eating, cooking or growing food. I also like to run and bike. I find running to be a quick way to release some of the stresses from your day or night. Yes, I do go running after a Friday night working at Swirl, some think it's a bit odd (wouldn't be the first time I've heard that about my self), but I find it relaxing to run in the moonlight, just need to be careful of those potholes. When I'm not running and still need to get my exercise fix, I'm on my road bike. In order to be an employee of Swirl, the ladies make you sign a blood oath that within 1 year you will join Team Swirl, raise some serious money to fight MS and be a top finisher in Bike MS. Maybe there's no blood oath, but there's certainly a lot of pressure...please ask Kimi when she'll be joining the team, she's been with us for a year now :) My fiance and I should be back this October to ride with the team.
If you had to pick a favorite wine region for reds, what would it be? for whites?
-Argg, now we have to pick and choose, these are the hardest questions to answer. I'm thrilled that Beth and Kerry recently went to Oregon and since then have flooded the shop with Oregon Pinot Noir. It's Oregon Pinot Noir (Eyrie Vineyard) that got me deeply hooked into this wonderful world of wine. They're elegant, the fruit is balanced with the earth; they certainly give Burgundies a run for their money. Not to mention they are American made; and I love that in 20 years our US landscape will change, more and more US regions are testing their terroir for the perfect grape partnership, you just wait and see.
I refuse to pick the traditional greats of the world, I'm going with whites from Campagnia, in Southwestern Italy, Near Mt. Vesuvius. The Falanghina, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino pair wonderfully with our hot summer days, provide great complexity to ponder over with friend on your porch, and provide great structure to pair with your seafood filled summer dishes.
What is your current favorite red, white or bubbly in the store right now?
-The Pierre Chermette Beaujolais. Beaujolais and the Gamay grape is one of the world's best, and it's terrible is gets such a bad wrap because of the Beaujolais Nouveau garbage. In every tragedy lies opportunity, there are some world class wine makers who take their time with this grape and create some world class wines that, fortunately for the consumer in the know, come at a great deal, this beaujolais is one of those great deals!
What was your recent best food and wine experience?
-I love pairing food and wine, it's tough stuff, there's rules we tend to follow, and we often break our preconceived rules to make the best pairings. A few months ago Kimi, Kerry, Beth, and I got together to work on a special flight night based on pairings, and we had the unfortunate task of eating lots of cheese and drinking over a dozen wines to investigate the best pairing possible; this is what I love, eating, drinking, tasting, mixing and matching all with great company and conversation and sometimes a slightly heated debate.
Last year, our old friend Michelle Gueydan and I went to check out the newly opened Root, she was the perfect dining companion, we each bought a number of dishes and glasses of wine from the menu, buckled down at the bar and begin the serious work of finding the great pairing. It was a silly scene of the 2 of us, taking up space for four because we were constantly going back and forth between our wines and dishes. The winner that night was a lamb face bacon (not sure if this is still on the menu) and the Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc, who would of thought. It was seriously one of those magical pairings that was perfect; when you put those two in your mouth the blended perfectly into pure sensory bliss to have them separately was just tease of their true flavor potential.
If you could pick any wine from the indulge section right now what would it be?
-I can't believe I'm going to say this...California wines are fantastic, but my palate doesn't often gravitate towards them, but with wine you are constantly learning and your opinions are subject to change. Romillily's 2011 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in California. I like this wine because it straddles the the divide between new world and old world wine. It has wonderful cherried fruit, like California Pinot, but the fruit it's balanced with darker, earthier elegant notes that you'd expect from France. I love the Russian River Valley for their lighter, less fruit -fleshy wines that possess depth in the palate and finish. This wine is a family affair, 2 brothers started the this young winery a few years ago, their vision is to keep their business small and keep the focus on the juice. They've also grown up under the mentorship of their uncle August "Joe" Briggs and are taking now building their own brand using the years of knowledge they've gained from a California great, they're a new generation of great California winemakers.
And finally, what do you like most about working in the wine biz?
-People. My bosses are great. My colleagues are great. Our customers are great. Our wine reps are great. Basically I feel like we are one big family who share a curiosity of wines and in doing so learn so much more about the world, ourselves and each other because of the community and love we share. Some of my happiest moments each week are at Swirl...I'm sure yours are too ;)
You can find Mike in the store every Wednesday as he hosts our "Wednesday Nite Flites" program with Kimi Kiviranna and other special guests, every other Friday and every Saturday, until he leaves for Florida in mid May. :-(