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November 29, 2016updated 02 Nov 2022 10:58am

“France Was Put on the Map to Create Characterful and Interesting Wine” Jim Rollston MS

By Thierry Dessauve

The World of Fine Wine takes a moment to hear from Jim Rollston MS Wine Director Manresa, California.

Heading up the wine team at Manresa California is Master Sommelier Jim Rollston. With a wealth of experience under his belt and a passion for his profession, Rollston can’t help but return again and again to the service side of the trade. “Without question the best part of my career is the ability to create the final experience for the guest in the dining room. The opportunity to make a special evening for people is what keeps drawing me back.”

France is Rollston’s immediate answer when it comes to inspirational regions, something that is reiterated each time he explores farther and wider, an indication of France and its great collection of terroirs. “Whenever I visit vineyards in France, I just get the feeling that this country was put on the map to create characterful and interesting wine,” said Rollston.

When looking for a good wine list, Rollston heads to Soif, Walnut Avenue in Santa Cruz because its “rare, interesting and unusual wines” always lead to new discoveries

We discuss which sommeliers are making a name for themselves at the moment, and in the US there is almost an endless amount of talent to be seen. Over the next few years it “will likely be a question of who stays with the trade and becomes the next Aldo Sohm or Bobby Stuckey,” commented Rollston, “I would place my bet on Kevin Reilly MS at Two Birds, One Stone,” he added.

Looking to sommeliers that have really made a name for themselves on an international level, Rollston highlights his admiration for Bobby Stuckey MS, “I think the best sommelier in the world is in the US, though of course I am biased. For me, Bobby Stuckey MS is the epitome of everything a sommelier should be: knowledgeable, gracious and absolutely, fanatically, dedicated to hospitality.”

Though Stuckey can certainly be classified as one of the best, when it comes to the most influential name out there, Rollston names Larry Stone MS, for his impact on the sommelier profession:

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“Larry is the role model and mentor for now multiple generations of American sommeliers, and took the position from being completely unknown by the wider public to its current (perhaps regrettable) fashionable status.”

Today, the hospitality industry is exceptionally image-focused, and there is no shortage of visually pleasing and “Instagram-worthy” dishes served up at Manresa. An advantage to claiming accolades such as the World’s Best Wine Lists, said Rollston, is that it sheds light on different elements of the restaurant; it helps people realize that it is more than just a destination for innovative cuisine by upholding an award-winning wine list. Manresa focuses on the classics, with a vast collection of white Burgundy, Rhône wines, German Riesling, and local Santa Cruz Mountains wines.

Rollston comments on The World of Fine Wine magazine, “I never pick up the magazine without learning something new, generally from each article in a given issue.”

With winter approaching quickly in the UK we touch on a few food pairings. “I’m going to be the most uncreative sommelier in the world”, Rollston jests, “and select the obvious: Cabernet”, to pair with beef. “The Ridge “Monte Bello” 2004 is really drinking well right now”, he adds. To pair with the turkey he selects a bottle of Marcel Lapierre Morgon “to honor someone who always inspired me and whose super drinkable wines I love with lighter meats”. A bottle of mezcal such as Mezcal Vago Tepeztate would also be suitable and wouldn’t go astray to continue the joviality.

Rollston has been fortunate to try some rare, exquisite wines, including the 1962 La Tâche from a Jeroboam at a private luncheon, and the 1947 Cheval Blanc, which he’s tried three times; the bottles appeared to be genuine, he remarks, an exciting feat. Though in celebration, Rollston will seek out Krug Grande Cuvée, for its personal affiliation: “It was the wine I celebrated my engagement and the one I reach for to mark a special occasion… Is it five o’clock yet?”

Photography courtesy of Nick Vasilopoulos

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