If you are looking to purchase any kind of boxed wine or a white zinfandel, don’t read this any further. However, if you are looking for advice on something a bit more sophisticated, say a beverage consisting of a blend of the Sangiovese grape and Merlot, or one that is “bursting with fresh red and black fruit notes,” David Winter is your man.
He is a political science major with minors in professional and public writing, and Spanish. But Winter is not only skilled within the classroom — he is an expert on all things wine.
His interest in wine sprouted from a fascination in beer and the brewing process, which developed from a young age. When he turned 18, he got a job at the Wilton Wine Shoppe in Wilton, Conn. That was the first time he was ever exposed to such an expansive array of wines. Being a small shop, Winter gathered the skills he could from his time there, but there was only so much room for growth at a location of that size.
When he turned 21, he began working at Ancona’s Wines & Liquors, also located in Wilton and in Ridgefield, Conn. Here was where Winter’s passion for wine really took off. Winter compared the feeling of working in this shop to working in a candy store. He commented that the walls and coolers are stocked with “rare and eclectic wines” brought in by the owner, Mitch Ancona and Wine Director Holly Phillips. Grateful is an understatement in terms of how Winter feels about these two individuals.
“For countless hours they would taste me on different wines, patiently answer any questions I had for them, as well as quiz me on various disciplines of wine knowledge when the time for one of many wine and spirits based exams rolled around. If it weren’t for Ancona’s Wines, Codey and Holly, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.
Last summer, Winter had a job opportunity that was able to increase his experience even further. He worked at Prime: An American Kitchen in Stamford, Conn. as a Cellar Master and Front House Manager. His role as a Cellar Master entailed cataloguing and receiving inventory, working with the chef to create wine pairings for prix fixe wine dinners, assisting guests with selecting a bottle of wine to compliment their meals and ordering wines and spirits for the restaurant on a weekly basis. Winter had the chance to have some teaching moments, as well.
“If there was ever any downtime, I would also aim to educate the staff on any new or existing products that we housed in our wine cellar,” he said.
Winter is currently certified as a Hospitality and Beverage Specialist and a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. He has also completed the Introductory Sommelier Course. Right now, he is studying for the Certified Sommelier exam and the Wine & Spirits Certification through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET II).
He comments that the WSET test is slightly more laid back, as it is mostly made up of a theory test that is completed at the end of a ten-week course. The Certified Sommelier Exam, on the other hand, is a lot more extensive. This exam is broken into three parts: theory, service and tasting. In order to pass this test, Winter says that he needs to have great knowledge of wine history, theory, geography, viticulture (the cultivation of grapevines), vilification and more. Knowing all of this information does not even comprise the whole test.
“I also have to perform a proper Champagne service in front of master Sommeliers, as well as be able to taste 2-4 wines blind and describe their characteristics while coming to a conclusion of where the wine comes from, what vintage it is, what grape produced the wine and if there are any special designations appended to the specific wine,” he said.
A typical day for Winter consists of studying, researching, drinking wine, selling wine and networking. Essentially, his days are mostly consumed with studying and blind tasting various wines. Additionally, however, he says that “[he is] frequently in touch with vineyard owners and distributors through personal and work channels to further pursue [his] passion in a less sedentary manner.”
Given Winter’s extensive knowledge of wines, it was only fitting that he provided some recommendations for Herald readers. Starting off is the best wine to pair with a pasta dinner, notably classic spaghetti and meatballs. According to Winter, 2016 The Juice Asylum II Terzo Grado Rosso is the winner.
“The final wine is easy, delicious and slightly funky with cherry and violet spice notes that intermingle with a decent backbone of acidity that will not only cut through the meaty sauce base, but elegantly bring out the freshness of the sauce itself,” he said.
As far as a wine fit for relaxing is concerned, 2015 Jean Foillard Morgon is Winter’s choice. This is the wine that bursts with fresh red and black fruit notes, and according to him, quenches one’s thirst but also leaves the consumer wanting more. He notes that this wine pairs well with herb roasted chicken or beet salad and describes it briefly.
“One can either sit down and discover the further layers that Jean Foillard has left for us to find, or sit back on a nice afternoon and pound a bottle back without blinking and eye,” said Winter. “Crushable.”
In a final recommendation, purely for college students, Winter suggests the 2016 Dönhoff Riesling Trocken. This wine specifically is dry, which surprises some because people often associate Riesling with being very sweet and containing distinct citrus and green apple notes. He says that this wine is the “perfect pairing for Chinese or Thai food or to drink by itself.”
Winter is currently undecided as to what realm of the wine industry he wishes to pursue, whether that be Restaurant, Distribution/Importation or Vineyard/Production. He is, however, meeting with winemakers this fall to discuss further employment opportunities and the 2018 harvest. No matter what path Winter may choose to follow, his expansive skill set and intense passion for wine and all things related to it will take him far within the field.