The Mark Wine News Winter '18 Volume 8.1 - Page 7

“Walnut Creek was near Napa and that was my passion. I loved the idea of being near so many wineries.” -Stephen Blevins Stephen with son Sam, wife Alyson, and dog Baker television. We walk and hike, canoe and paddleboard. We eat dinner late because it’s so far north it doesn’t get dark until 10:15 at night. We drink great wines every night.” And on top of that it’s a family aff air. “My wife’s fi ve sisters all come as well at some point during our time there.” Both Blevins and his wife grew up in the St. Louis area. “I was born and raised in St. Charles and my wife in Olivette. We actually met working at a restaurant called YaYa’s Euro Bistro.” YaYa’s Euro Bistro had 8 locations in the Midwest. “I was manager and she came in looking for a server position. We didn’t have any openings at the time but I convinced her to be our daytime hostess and that I would promote her as soon as there was an opening.” It turns out they only worked together for 2 months when Blevins was transferred to the Kansas City location but they were able to keep their relationship going. Growing up Blevins aspired to be one thing. “I wanted to be a dad. That was my perfect job.” His close-knit family included mom, dad, two older brothers and a younger sister. “My sister has been my best friend since 3rd grade,” he adds. “My mom was a bookkeeper for a local accounting fi rm and my dad worked his entire career for GM.” Blevins also had an interest in Politics, well sort of. “From the lobbyist side,” he says, “I was always persuasive and could bring people to my team.” He got involved with school politics but really enjoyed the social aspect more than the politics itself. “A direct correlation to how I ended up in the hospitality industry.” Of course all this was before he discovered his true passion. “Once I discovered wine and spirits, that was all I wanted to do.” That opportunity came during college. “I went to my fi rst single malt tasting at a wine shop and was blown away. I saw they had a ‘help wanted’ sign and asked the owner what he was looking for. He said he needed someone to run the store on Mondays so he could have a day off . The restaurant I was WINTER 2018 working at during college was closed on Mondays so it was perfect. The hours were 10am to 8pm and I would spend all day and evening reading from the library of books at the shop.” He did that for 3 years. “I would lay out 10 books on Burgundy and learn everything I could about Burgundy. I spent six months learning vodka, then scotch, then bourbon, tequila, wine, etc… I would buy bottles to taste. I made a conscious decision I wanted to explore all wine and spirits.” And he did. “Mondays were the slowest days at the wine shop and so it left me plenty of time to study.” When Blevins was 23 he told his boss at YaYa’s Euro Bistro, the restaurant he was managing, that he wanted to take the Master Sommelier Intro exam. “I said if I pass you pay and if I fail, I pay. The MS conducting the study group and giving the exam was Doug Frost. The fi rst day I thought I was invincible and didn’t spit. Yeah, I got drunk.” But he went back the next day. “I was thinking I know nothing, but I actually knew more than I thought and I passed the fi rst level.” All those Monday hours studying at the wine shop paid off . In 2010 Blevins entered the world of Flemings as Wine Manager at the St. Louis location. He was recruited to Walnut Creek a few years later. And nothing made him happier. “Walnut Creek was near Napa and that was my passion. I loved the idea of being near so many wineries.” In 2013 he started working on the national wine list under the tutelage of Maeve Pesquera, Flemings previous National Wine Director before Blevins. When Maeve decided to leave Flemings, not wanting to relocate her family from California to Tampa, the doors opened for Blevins. And using the same energy he had in high school as Student Council VP, Blevins brings to the Flemings Steakhouse and Wine Bar wine program. And he’s come a long way from his fi rst taste of wine. “It was a Schmitt Sohne Riesling in a blue bottle. Great on a hot St. Louis summer day, but a far cry from the 1997 Barbaresco that hooked me.” 5