Vintage Beacon Circa 2/11: Why we need Sommeliers in SCV: A discussion with Patina’s Silvestre Fernandes

In a land far, far away – well, actually, it’s just downtown Los Angeles – the classic award-winning French restaurant, Patina, knows the importance of having a sommelier on staff. Here, in Santa Clarita, two valleys away and with wine pursuits ranging from restaurants to wine bars, I have to wonder, why don’t we have more sommeliers, like Silvestre Fernandes the sommelier for Patina, here as well?  So, in this week’s interview I asked Silvestre about this, and more:

PatinaHello new wine friend!  I love to have a sommelier on hand whether I’m dining in a fine restaurant, shopping in a wine store, or visiting a wine bar.  Please tell Eve Wine 101 readers why having someone with those skills are important?

Hello Eve!

In Europe and particularly in France, we take pride in socializing around a table for hours. We “live to eat and drink” and a certain quality of food and wine is expected when dining out, having a drink in a wine bar or selecting some wine in a “cave a vin” (wine store).

Many restaurants back there have a “Sommelier” on site. It is considered an art to match “food and wines”.  His recommendations can turn your dining experience into an unforgettable sensation, create the “special moment” we all look forward to when dining out.

Luckily more and more restaurants in America and especially California, have understood the importance of having someone with that knowledge in their staffing.

Would you care to share one of your favorite wines with us, virtually?  We’d love to know what you like to drink!

I am well known for being more of a “Bordeaux Connoisseur”, probably because it all started there for me. It is with emotion that I recall tasting my first French wines in Bordeaux, educating myself through visits of the vineyards and amazing encounters with passionate wine makers.

If I had to choose within one of my favorite wines, it would be an aged  “Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou”, a classic powerful Saint Julien Bordeaux wine, with a nice bright ruby color, ripe and extremely well balanced.  This was a special “leaving party gift” from my coworkers from the “Manoirs aux Quat’Saisons” in England!

If readers visit Patina, how do you help them navigate your wine list?

My job at Patina, like anyone else there, is to ensure that your experience with us is one of a kind and a memorable one.

As I greet you, I am already well aware of your food selection. Through a brief discussion, I will assess your preferences and your budget and will help you match the food you chose with some wine recommendations from the wine list that can enhance your whole dining experience.

Some of my readers are wine students.  Please tell us what type of study you found most helpful?

Like any subject, learning wine through textbooks is a good beginning. It is really important to learn the basics: the History of the wine making, wine around the World, the wine industry etc…But in my opinion, the best way to learn about wines is to complete the experience with a hands on approach to it. As much as you can, go and visit vineyards, talk to winemakers, taste as many different wines as you can to educate your palate. Use all your senses to feed that passion for wine that will take you through a life of excitement!

Thanks Silvestre!  In our last question, assuming that you miss your home in Portugal or your time in France, how does the palate of the American compare?  Are we far behind the rest of the world in our knowledge of more, say, global wine producers?

Eve, my family and I are fortunate enough to be able to go back to France and Portugal every year to visit our families. While there I realize how blessed we are to be easily exposed to delicious food and wines.

European palates are more likely to be well developed thanks to an eclectic and tasty cuisine and a large variety of delectable wines. We love to EAT and DRINK, that’s a fact!

Nevertheless, having been in California for more than a decade now, I can certify you that I have witnessed here an increasing interest for a larger diversity of food and wines which can definitely compare with back home. It is easier to find many items from home that were nonexistent 10 years ago. Having said that, I know that being in Los Angeles makes the whole difference and I wish that the whole U.S. could have access to all those goodies. California is a world leader, a great example of success when it comes to offering a chance to educate yourself and enjoying life through “Food and Wine”. A great place to live indeed!

Information about Silvestre from the Patina website:

Born in Portugal but raised in France, Silvestre Fernandes always knew he wanted to work in the wine industry. After earning his Brevet d’Aptitudes Professionnel in Hotellerie at St. Girons, he received his sommelier certification in Toulouse and a bachelor’s degree in Tarbes, France.

After his formal training ended, his true learning experience began. In 1994 he was hired as Commis Sommelier at Michel Guerard’s three-Michelin starred restaurant Les Pres D’Eugenie in southwest France. He then moved to England where he perfected his English language skills while working as Assistant Sommelier in two-Michelin starred restaurant Le Manoir Au Quat’ Saisons under Chef Raymond Blanc.

In 2000, Fernandes made the leap across the pond and landed a position as assistant Sommelier at Joachim Splichal’s flagship restaurant Patina. He continued to learn about wine and as his responsibilities grew, he was promoted to Sommelier in March 2010. The same month Patina received a rare four-star review from Los Angeles Times’ critic S. Irene Virbila.

Fernandes is fluent in four languages: French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. When not in the restaurant he spends his free time out-of-doors, running, cycling and gardening.