Star Sommelier

Going 10 Rounds With Sommelier Rafe Gabel

The certified sommelier and cicerone, and vice president of restaurant operations at San Francisco restaurant design firm the Puccini Group, tackles our speed round of questions.

Courtesy Kieran Wagner

What do you like to drink after a long day? “Shot of Fernet-Branca and a domestic lager.”

What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.”

Name the first good wine you ever drank and where you had it. “Domaine Du Vieux Télégraphe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I was a server at a French bistro in Northern California and the wine director let me taste a bottle that was opened. I immediately became a Francophile.”

What book on wine, cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “When I’m in need of some Italian fact clarification, I always use the book Vino Italiano written by David Lynch and Joseph Bastianich.”

Name the wine region that took you the longest to truly understand. “Piemonte! Besides the amount of DOCG (17) and DOC (42), the diversity of soils combined with the vast variety of aging requirements and allowed blends is enough information to make your head spin.”

What’s your favorite wine and food pairing? “Auslese German Riesling and a Caesar salad.”

What’s the most common wine myth you have to debunk? “That California can only produce good Chardonnay if it has been overly oaked and gone through malolactic fermentation.”

What’s your favorite bottle of wine under $20? “Trimbach Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France.”

What’s your favorite bottle of wine over $1,000? “Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche Grand Cru.”

What’s your favorite way to open a bottle? “With my Laguiole En Aubrac olivewood corkscrew and most important with the neck of the bottle pointed upwards!”

Rafe Gabel is a certified sommelier and cicerone, and is the vice president of restaurant operations at San Francisco restaurant design firm the Puccini Group.

Interview has been condensed and edited.