SF Wine Week: Sommelier Cezar Kusik

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Wine Week Heralds New Beginning for Sommelier
By Courtney Cochran

cezarKusic_pic1.jpgIt took Cezar Kusik, erstwhile wine director for the recently shuttered Rubicon in San Francisco, three weeks to catalog, pack up and ship off what remained of the restaurant's widely renowned wine cellar this fall. Dubbed "beyond words" and "hands-down one of the best [lists] that I have ever seen" by standout Bay Area wine blogger Alder Yarrow , Rubicon's wine list was honed over the years by Master Sommelier Larry Stone, who himself encouraged Kusik's interest in wine not long after the aspiring writer landed a job as a bartender at the restaurant in 1997.
It proved to be the beginning of a wonderful mentorship, not to mention a fascinating career in wine that would take Kusik from assistant sommelier under Stone to a tenure as an in-demand freelance wine consultant and finally back to Rubicon in the position of full-blown Wine Director during the restaurant's final years. Rubicon's recent closing - mourned by many as a significant loss to San Francisco's fine dining scene - means Kusik is out of a job, though far from out of opportunities.

New Chapter Begins with SF Wine Week
Indeed, as the Rubicon chapter of Kusik's wine career comes to a close, another opens as the seasoned wine professional steps into the shoes of Host Committee Member for the highly anticipated SF Wine Week (Nov. 10-15). Kusik's role with Wine Week - which he assumed after a brief stint making wine in the Russian River Valley following Rubicon's shuttering - is to assist festival co-founders Ruben Morancy and Elie Ernest in recruiting top-flight wineries to take part in festival events.

Thus far Kusik's influence has been instrumental in retaining a number of highly esteemed wine producers whose wines will no doubt be among the most in-demand pours at Wine Week parties. And in addition to his work helping secure festival participants, Kusik is helping to plan the Wednesday night Sommelier Party hosted by Bay Area wine luminary Mark Bright. In all, they're fitting contributions for a sommelier whose track record includes stints at some of San Francisco's most esteemed fine dining institutions.

cezarKusik_pic2.jpgOenophile On the Move
When pressed about what he enjoys most about working with wine, the humble wine "steward" - as sommeliers are often called - has plenty to say. "Before I got into [wine], I never realized how complicated and sophisticated a topic it is," Kusik muses. "Through wine, you learn about culture, history, geography, chemistry.  To be an expert, you have to be knowledgeable about all of these subjects!" What Kusik doesn't bring up is the almost impossible-to-teach art of customer relations - a key aspect of working with wine - that sets apart average wine directors from those who land roles at lauded spots like Rubicon. It's a deft combination of integrity, salesmanship and empathy, and only the best sommeliers possess it.

It's something Kusik has in spades, and which we look forward to seeing at work again soon in the next role he takes on. Oenophiles will benefit no matter where he winds up, and in the mean time can sample some of the standout sommelier's stellar selections at SF Wine Week.

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Further down the scale, however, prospects are grim. Too much wine is being produced for too few buyers. Read More

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