The art of wining

While dining out, ordering wine to go with your meal can be quite intimidating. You look over the extensive wine list unsure of what to order, or what may go best with your entrée. Hopefully, there will be a sommelier on-hand to lead you in the right direction. They will consider your price range, personal likes and dislikes and not balk at any inexperience. Instead of treating their customers with airs and elitism, they are there to help.Cate Easterly, wine director at 35th St. Bistro in Fremont, has been studying to be a sommelier for the past year, reading about wine regions, talking to winemakers and farmers, taking wine appreciation classes and practicing blind tastings. She had the most difficulty studying the regions she was less knowledgeable about, such as South America, Australia and South Africa."At 35th St., we mainly feature Old World wines - predominantly wines from France and Italy," Easterly said. "It's great that I get to learn so much about these wines for work, and for myself, but I really had to study for the other regions since they were outside of what I typically work with."All the preparation has made her feel ready for a sommelier exam in the wine utopia of California's Napa Valley. And at the end of July, Easterly traveled to Napa to take it, in hopes of earning the introductory certificate - the first of the four placements, the other three being certified, advanced and the highly touted master sommelier. And it looks as if her hard year of studying has paid off. An hour after taking the exam she learned that she had passed. "It was an overwhelming couple of days...leading up to the exam," she said. "We had a day and a half of lectures and classes to prepare us, and I was just trying my best to take notes on everything and take in as much as possible." A CULINARY CAREEREasterly started out as a chef. Her father was a restaurant owner, so she grew up with a good understanding of the business. At 15, she began working in the kitchen and later went on to graduate from well-known Johnson & Wales University in Denver. Upon graduating, she moved to Napa, where she completed an externship at French Laundry, known as one of the best restaurants in the world. Easterly and her husband, Matt, hope to someday own their own restaurant in Seattle. Since he is a chef as well, she figured it would be smart to gain more experience in the front of the house and less in the kitchen. She started out serving and bartending at Chez Shea in Belltown. And with her eagerness to learn, she climbed her way up to the top as wine director at 35th St. She said about 200 people in the world hold the "master sommelier" title, "so I at least plan on getting certified and possibly advanced placement, but that is a stretch," she said. Plus, she knows that this would also entail years and years more of studying.Easterly also teaches wine-appreciation classes for her staff at the restaurant, usually with a hand-picked professional. "Wine should be fun and unpretentious," she said.[[In-content Ad]]