Comstock's magazine 0319 - March 2019 - Page 47

to is really honing its culture. We want this to be a place where people love and appreciate wine.” Toward that end, her wine list at Al- lora boasts over 250 vintages, most of which originate in Italy to pair with the menu. However, Mandalou also chal- lenges customers by bringing in bottles from winegrowing regions largely unfa- miliar to Americans, such as the coun- try of Georgia, which she says has one of the oldest winegrowing traditions in the world. “One of the biggest complaints we get at Allora is that the wine list is too out there,” she says. “For me, that’s also the best compliment because we have a lot of really great restaurants in Sacramento that all have either the same wines or the same focal point. I’m trying to do some- thing different in Sacramento.” More than anything, Mandalou wants to remodel a Sacramento wine scene caught up in what she calls a “cork- age mindset,” with diners more interest- ed in bringing their own bottles than putting faith in a trained sommelier. “We select the wines as wine professionals to pair with the food,” she says. “The best experience you’re going to have is put- ting a little trust in us.” Keith Fergel, Sacramento’s first Ad- vanced Sommelier and the general man- ager at Taylor’s Kitchen, agrees that most local wine lists look too similar, making for unadventurous dining. “We’ve conditioned our custom- ers the wrong way,” he says. “We need to make our guests feel like they can get value with wine service in a restau- rant, as opposed to bringing in their own bottle.” In an effort to raise the bar for Sacra- mento’s wine scene, Mandalou and Fer- gel are hoping to launch the city’s first restaurant wine week by the end of this year, a celebration that would include wine dinners and pairing competitions. Mandalou also hosts a biweekly tast- ing group at Allora, where between 8-14 sommeliers from throughout the city chip in to participate in blind tastings. It provides an opportunity for Mandalou and other experienced local sommeliers to sharpen their tasting skills, as well as mentor the next generation of local wine professionals. “We are a very tight-knit group of professionals that work together to keep each other on our toes,” Mandalou says. During the blind tasting portion of the sommelier exam, participants have to identify six wines in less than 25 minutes. Having the local tasting group helps sommeliers who might be interest- ed in eventually pursuing the Advanced Sommelier title. “We give each other constructive criticisms, point out the things that we are consistently missing or hitting,” Mandalou says. The tasting group was launched by Jeremy Reed, Sacramento’s second Ad- vanced Sommelier and now wine direc- tor at The Charter Oak in St. Helena, who credits Mandalou with infusing it with fresh energy. “It’s really beneficial to a lot of the younger people that she attracts,” he says. Reed calls Mandalou, named as one of Wine & Spirits magazine’s Best New Sommeliers of 2018, as “the face of Sacramento’s wine community.” While Mandalou was studying for her Advanced Sommelier Exam, she joined forces with Reed and Fergel, who were Allora’s wine list includes over 250 vintages. Who has the best wine list in the region? TWEET US @COMSTOCKSMAG. March 2019 | comstocksmag.com 49