Andrew Meyrowitz did what a lot of people do and entered the family business. But when that business is The Wine Harvest in Gaithersburg (and Potomac), you end up recommending wines to customers before you’re even 21.
Now a dozen years past his legal drinking age, Meyrowitz, 33, is both managing the business and its resident wine expert, with his first level sommelier certificate to prove it. WJW visited Meyrowitz while he tended bar and talked about translating sommelier-ese and drinking in 2018.
I think when people picture a sommelier, it’s like an old British man. So, what does the new generation of sommeliers look like?
The new generation of sommeliers tends to be a lot younger, a little more hip and focused on pushing trends. I agree, to a certain level, with that, but I still have a conservative side of me that focuses on making the customer happy and providing an easy explanation.
I feel that a lot of the younger sommeliers really focus on the technical and technological side. I view my job and my title as somebody who should be able to take in what somebody says, filter it through what should be said by a traditional sommelier and then provide them with the information in layman’s terms.
Can you give me an example?
So, a person comes in: “I want a wine that’s dry. I want it to be good, and I want it at X price.” The average — and this is a generalization — sommelier will say, “Well, good is based on what you perceive and dry is going to be higher acid.” I traditionally ask different questions, like, have you had wines that you like? What are they? What’s the occasion? Peel a little more of the layers so we can get to know our customers and develop a profile on what they like. We can then find out that by dry they mean big and bold, maybe more tannic, not acidic.
Like they have a specific dry they’re looking for?
Right. Or when somebody says, “I’m looking for this and I’m having a spicy dish.” OK, do you want red or white? We do think a little bit out of the ordinary, like the modern sommelier, where sweet wines go with spicy foods and even if you want to do a red, we’ll push you in the right direction. Nudge you to a red wine that has a little more fruit on the front [of the palette].
When you just sit down to have a drink, outside business hours, what are you drinking?
I drink wine when I’m having food and I will pair my wine with my food — so, it depends on the dish, it depends on the company and it depends on the time of year. But on the traditional day when I’m off, I get home and I want to have a drink to unwind, I either drink tequila or whiskey.
Do you have any good stories of your time in the business?
I think one of my favorites is a customer who would come in when I first started and was pretty resistant to a younger guy suggesting wine, especially because I was under 21 when I started. It took me a long time to build his trust, but I was listening to him and seeing him have drinks in the shop and when he came in one day he was stuck with me. He needed a wine for a special event and I suggested one that was less expensive than what he wanted, but was similar. He took it with a lot of hesitation. When he came back the next day, before I could even ask, he came over and gave me a hug.
So, you started when you were under 21 and couldn’t technically drink. How did you recommend things?
I would be a liar if I said I had never had a sip of alcohol. But I read a lot. I would read The Wine Spectator. I’d listen to my customers because at that point they were a source of education for me. And yes, I had wine. I would have a taste here and there at home with my family. Not at a party because if you’re underage and you’re at a party, well, it’s illegal, but you’re also not drinking it for depth and complexity. You’re drinking it for an entirely different end result.
What do you think people should know to be better drinkers in 2018?
When it comes to drinking, besides drink responsibly, I’d say drink reasonably. When you’re tasting anything, don’t taste it once. And not only taste it twice, but taste it by itself and taste it with food. And ask questions. Don’t be afraid to show you don’t necessarily know everything when you’re going to buy a bottle of wine, a bottle of whiskey, a pint of beer. The key to drinking is having fun and doing it within reason.
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