If you drink wine, enjoy great cuisine or live in LA, odds are you've crossed paths with Alex Weil. With an impressive resume that includes tenures as Head Sommelier at Bouchon Bistro and Beverage Director at Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza, Alex has worked alongside industry giants and helped shape world renowned wine programs. His vast knowledge, warm character and generous spirit leave you wanting to add one more seat to your table to further bask in his infectious passion for the finer things in life. This LA native is also a first time father, recently welcoming twin girls, Audrey and Charlotte, with his wife Christine, a theatre administrator. Alex's journey so far has many of LA's movers and shakers curious to see what's next for him and, in the meantime, seeking out his private consultation services (often over a round of golf) on everything from cellar curation to private wine tastings.
Precious Beast recently had the opportunity to sit with Alex for SOMEONE YOU OUGHTA KNOW... WITH ALEX WEIL, SOMMELIER EXTRAORDINAIRE...
PB: Do you remember your first glass of wine?
AW: I do not remember my very first glass of wine but more than likely around the age of 12 or 13 my father gave me a sip of something he was drinking at Sunday night dinner. I probably hated it.
The first glass of wine I loved I do remember quite well though. It was a red Bordeaux purchased by a family friend from his son’s birth year and poured at his 21st birthday. The difference between properly aged wine and young wine was then, and still is now, staggering to me. It doesn’t just taste different, it also feels different.
PB: When did you know that you were destined for a career in wine?
AW: Not until I was working in the wine industry actually. I enjoyed the interaction with customers being a barista during college afforded me and had a very positive experience visiting Sonoma with friends during my junior year of college. When it came time to get a job after graduation I had the opportunity to work at a wine store. I took the job, took to the industry and decided to make working in wine a career.
PB: You've worked with so many incredible people (Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Christian Navarro, to name a few...). Are there any lessons or takeaways you can offer from those experiences?
AW: That anything is possible if you are willing to work for it. That no detail is too small to overlook or ignore, and to be detail oriented to the point of being obsessive. I’ve worked for obsessive people that make everything look easy and I’ve worked for people whose very reputation is built on the public’s knowledge of their obsessive behavior. But, they all were obsessed with the details.
Being around so many entrepreneurs specifically I have also learned to do what you do best and surround yourself with people who fill in the gaps. No person is an island. That’s very hard for some people to see. That you need others to be successful.
PB: In your opinion, what makes a wine great? Terrible?
AW: We should concern ourselves more with good wines than great wines. Great wines become trophies and are easy to learn about through excessive press and to buy. All you need is the money. A good wine though is any wine made by people who care and is reflective of the place where it was made. All good wines by the way are worth trying. Yes, there are proven vineyards that can, when the conditions in the vineyard and winery align perfectly, yield wines that are reference points in winemaking but many of those wines are considered very good. We should learn to embrace the good and very good.
A terrible wine for me is any wine made by recipe and has no bearing on the place from which it was grown. Terrible wines are, for the most part, commercial endeavors only and reflective of the Sales and Marketing team that has advised on what will sell. Companies make terrible wines. People make good wines.
PB: As a wine expert, any wine tips, tools or tricks of the trade you can share?
1) Everybody should drink more white wine in general.
2) Remember that you can pair wines to the mood as well as to your food.
3) When travelling, drink the wines from the place where you are staying. When at home cooking, drink wines from the places where your dish comes from. Or where the predominant seasoning is found.
4) If you like a wine, take a picture of it. Then you can try wines from the same producer, or made with the same grape, or from the same region. After you’ve tried a few wines from a producer, or region or from the same group you’ll begin to develop a mastery of that producer’s/region’s/grape’s style
PB: I'm sure you have many, but please share a dream menu....
AW: Lunch or dinner outside with pate, charcuterie and cheese with a wonderful loaf of bread. Roasted chicken with carrots or any root vegetable. Something with fruit in it (or fruit itself) for dessert. Cold bottles of Sancerre and Vouvray.
I’m becoming simpler in my mid-age.
PB: You've said that one of the aspects you enjoy most from the work you've done is interacting directly with customers/clients. Is there a particular client or type of project you're drawn to?
AW: Polite people. Interested (and interesting) people. People who respect that I am a professional just like them and therefore have an opinion or information worth considering (just like they do in their profession). I understand earning trust is a two way street, but people who are initially trusting are more fun to work with than people who are initially skeptical or who just simply order you around.
PB: How has fatherhood changed you. Any big first Father's Day plans?
AW: I’m sure it has but it is hard to step outside myself and see by how much. I don’t feel different; I just now have something to talk about to all of our friends who have children! And perhaps a bit more tired than before.
I still believe, as I did growing up, that major events change a person instantly. I am always a bit surprised when they do not therefore. It would seem our experiences shape us more than change us. I definitely catch myself thinking that I feel the same as I ever did, and then a baby crying from the other room confirms very little is the same as it used to be.
No big plans for Father’s Day this year as my twins still dominate our attention 24/7. I did put my wife on notice though for Father’s Days in the future. The holiday always falls on the last day of golf’s US Open and for my gift in perpetuity I would like peace and quiet to be able to watch it. I do like ties though. I won’t be upset if my daughters give me ties for Father’s Day.
PB: From childhood to college to career, you're an LA man. What do you love about LA?
AW: The endless variety of experiences that Los Angeles offers. I love the diversity you can find if you drive a street like Sunset or Santa Monica from the ocean to beyond downtown. We have everything here. The weather doesn’t hurt either. Plus, I think we lead the nation in street food. Who else comes close?
PB: What do we have to look forward to from Alex Weil?
AW: I’ve been saying for years that it is time to own a restaurant of my own. I have my eyes on an existing restaurant and am working on an acquisition plan. I can imagine few better ways to spend a life than by meeting, affecting, and being affected by people in the community through food and drink.
PB: Where can people find out more (or get in touch)?