Amy Racine ’11 always knew she would return to the San Francisco Bay area. The vibrant culinary and enological culture of the city draws aspiring chefs and sommeliers from around the world. Inspiration comes from the lush hills, valleys, and mountains that surround the city and provide lush ingredients destined for serving plates and wine glasses.
Amy’s time spent at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Accelerated Wine and Beverage Program was the beginning of a career that’s all about professional growth. Now the sommelier at the one Michelin-star restaurant Sons & Daughters, Amy uses her skills to pair wines with the custom tasting menu designed by chef/owners Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara.
“I was pursuing an AOS in culinary arts degree when the Wine Studies class really grabbed my interest,” says Amy. “Professor Michael Weiss let me sit in on extra classes and Professor Steven Kolpan had a lot of faith in me and made me feel I could have a career in wine.”
Amy went on to complete a bachelor’s degree, and after that, she decided to enroll in the Accelerated Wine and Beverage Program at Greystone. Her first job after graduation was at the five-star luxury Áman Resort, Amangiri, in southern Utah. “I really liked my job, but I decided to move because I wanted to grow and learn more about wine,” says Amy. “I sent my résumé to Eric Johnson, head sommelier at Bouchon. While I wasn’t hired there, Eric kept my résumé on file. When Teague and Matt were looking for a sommelier Eric recommended me. I staged for two days and got the job!”
Sons & Daughters is the first restaurant for the partners and has received rave reviews. “The menu changes frequently and is based on what comes from our garden,” Amy explains. The garden is on a one-acre lot in Los Gatos that has expansive boxes, a greenhouse, and an orchard, managed by two professional gardeners. We grow a variety of flowers, greens, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and snails. Having the garden right there helps you see a whole new way of matching food and flavors with various wines.”
The restaurant creates a nine course tasting menu. Amy works closely with chef de cuisine, Duncan Holmes, tasting and selecting wines that complement the dishes he creates. “It’s really wonderful to work with chefs that feel the wine program is as important as the food menu. It’s all about taking the guest experience to the next level,” says Amy.
As the only sommelier on staff, Amy has to move quickly and efficiently around the dining room. “One of the best lessons I learned from the CIA is to always have a sense of urgency. It’s something that’s helped me remain efficient in all aspects of my career and personal life. I think it sets CIA graduates apart from the crowd.”
Amy is also instrumental in developing winemaker dinners at the restaurant. She visits local wineries choosing vintages with the winemaker then assists with menu development. “Teague and Matt let me run with the wine dinners,” Amy says. “They are willing to hear my thoughts and ideas.” And always determined to learn and expand her knowledge, Amy will soon take the advanced sommelier certification exam.
Being back in San Francisco is a dream come true for Amy. “I’m so lucky to live in such a great food and wine city,” says Amy. “I’m able to travel around the area, increase my knowledge about viticulture, and bring that back to Sons & Daughters.”