After steadily climbing the culinary ladder, from a high school stint at P.F. Chang’s to a position as manager and sommelier at Brasserie by Niche, Andrey Ivanov landed behind the bar at 33 Wine Shop in 2011.
“The selection I got to play around with at 33 grew my scope and knowledge of the beverage world [and] allowed me to share my passion directly with the guests. There is a direct correlation between the time I spent at 33 and passing my Advanced Sommelier exam.”
Earlier this year, Ben Poremba approached Ivanov with “his dream for Elaia and Olio. It was like all the stars aligned and I decided this was going to be my next venture and adventure as I start down the path towards Master Sommelier.”
Explain what it means to be a sommelier.
Knowledge of the menu combined with fluency in not just wine but beer, cocktails, spirits, sake, coffee and anything else that can be asked for during service is an essential tool of a sommelier’s arsenal. It is the role of the sommelier to answer questions, make suggestions but always keep the experience of the guest the paramount priority of the restaurant, whatever that may take.
What level are you?
Currently I am an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. This is the third of four levels of certification that culminates with the Master Sommelier diploma. [I hope to] sit for the MS for the first time next year.
You just went on a monthlong tour of Europe’s wine regions.
For me, it is essential to be able to provide context and personal experience when dealing with wine. The regions I have seen range from lush to arid, from urban to completely isolated wilderness, and the wines are a direct representation of those places; we call this terroir. Experiencing a wine becomes so much more interesting and thought-provoking when there is a story to tell alongside the glass.
What do you feel is missing from the St. Louis wine scene?
More somms on the floor. When one member of your staff can educate the rest on the basics, the stigma of wine being nebulous and snobby eases drastically. The right sommelier will create a culture of learning in your restaurant. The guest will notice this the next time their server offers them a recommendation or when a question is not met with a blank stare.
What’s the vision for Elaia and Olio?
For Elaia, my goal is to create a dining experience that puts food, beverage and service on equal pedestals. Olio will be a more casual bar and eatery with a great selection of wines both in glass and in bottle, a well-chosen craft beer selection, and other potables. The menu will be laid out in a way that doesn’t alienate those who don’t know what Gruner Veltliner is; it will be labeled “kinda like Pinot Grigio.” If you’ve never tasted Mencia or Marsanne, come on down; we’ll pop it open.
Favorite food memory?
It happened just a few weeks ago in Rias Baixas, Spain. We were eating dinner with a regional winemaking icon, Gerardo Mendez of Do Ferreiro. A few courses into the meal, our server brought a live giant crab, freshly caught, to the table. We thought he was just showing off some of the day’s catch. What we did not know was that this crab was going to make it to our dinner table a short time later. It came out on a central platter, and we each took a leg. Afterwards, Gerardo poured the remnants of our bottle of 2000 Cepas Veillas (his Albariño cultivated from 200 year old vines) into the belly of the crab. We proceed to pass it around the table with everyone taking a hearty gulp. The flavor was almost indescribable. The inner parts of the crab were quite sweet, and a little briny. Mixed with the peach, apricot and orchid aromatic profile of the Albariño, and with its inherent mineral flavor qualities, the soup inside the crab may have been one of the best things I have ever tasted.
What do you wish the rest of the country knew about St. Louis?
Here in St. Louis, we are all striving to raise the bar together. Every time you turn around, someone is coming out with a concept that nullifies the notion that the Midwest is a two year old mirror of what is happening on the coasts. It seems like St. Louis is a place where as long as you have a great vision, execute it well, our community will rally around you. Not to sound to cliché, but we embody everything that makes us the Show Me State. Show us something good and we will come.