I caught the “wine bug” at 19! I was working in a restaurant as a server and two Swiss couples asked me every morning what to drink with their dinner that night. They were super passionate about wine, and in wanting to do right by them, I read during my afternoon breaks and stumbled upon the beginning of my career. Around the same time, I visited Alto Adige with my father. He was purchasing wine for his private cellar, and I bought my first bottle, a 1983 Darmagi from Angelo Gaja. Now, this was 1990, so that bottle wasn’t even what it would be now. I had read so much about it, and it was a hell of a lot of money, but my instinct told me to go for it. I did.
I continued to work in wine-focused restaurants in Tirol, my home region in Austria. I started my sommelier education in 1998, and I was invited by our group leader to the “Best Sommelier in the World” competition in Vienna where he was the Austrian candidate. I watched the finals and was shocked: the intensity, the stress, the pressure. I remember thinking to myself, “This is absolutely insane. I will never do anything like this!” One year later, while I was successfully finishing my Sommelier exam, that same group leader asked me if I’d be interested in competing. I was humbled and nervous, but my curiosity was stronger than my fear. During my first completion, in 1999, I came in second. In 2000, I once more came in second. I finally won my first contest, “Best Sommelier in Austria 2002.” I defended the title again in 2003, 2004, and also in 2006, after having moved to New York in 2004 to improve my English and compete on an international level.
My introduction to the New York beverage scene was at Wallsé and Café Sabarsky, following which I opened Blaue Gans in Tribeca in 2007. Those couple of years were very eventful and led me to where I am today. I won “Best Sommelier in America 2007” which allowed me to represent the US in the “Best Sommelier in the World 2008” competition. More importantly, perhaps, I started at Le Bernardin as Chef Sommelier in 2007. I landed a dream job working with Maguy and Eric in a great family. Since then, and as we opened Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in 2014, I've had the honor and fortune to grow and train two teams. I’ve since kept my position at Le Bernardin, and its hard for me to imagine leaving the floor. Like that Swiss couple, I love to eat and drink, and being at Le Bernardin allows me to keep learning and pushes me to improve myself.
Growing up in Austria, surrounded by glassblowing artisans and craftsmen in the height of glass culture, it was impossible NOT to think about glassware. As a result, when I was approached by Zalto, it was a natural partnership for me to take on. I truly believe that great wines deserves great stemware, and I was able to learn first-hand how the glassmaking affects the wine's behavior in the glass (and on the nose and palate). It’s like good music needing a good speaker system. (Check out the Zalto Shop, here!) I also got tired of only criticizing wine, because there was so much I felt I didn’t know about how it ought to turn out. Gerhard and I partnered in 2008 to produce Gruner Veltliner from our home, Austria. (Read more about our story, here) It’s been a good and challenging journey so far, and being a part of the wine-making process has made me a better, more knowledgeable (and certainly a more humble) sommelier.
Recently I am honored to have been awarded M. Chapoutier prize for the Best Sommelier of Les Grandes Tables du Monde in 2019 and Wine Spectator’s Grand Award for Le Bernardin's restaurant wine program in 2021.
This year, my TV series "An Austrian Wine Journey" ("Eine österreichische Weinreise") has debuted!
Now? Now, I live in Brooklyn where I’ve truly found my second home. With all the work in my life, I try to balance myself with sport. I am an avid cyclist, and I love getting out of the city on my bicycles. Life is all about balance, and I find myself discovering more of it outside of my comfort zone!