Interviews

Know Your Sommeliers: Jeremy Shanker, MS

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10/04/2024 Meet Jeremy Shanker, MINA Group's Corporate Wine Director and esteemed Master Sommelier. Read our "Know Your Sommeliers" series for insights on wine, guest experiences, and sales strategies. Discover the wine world's secrets from Jeremy's lens.

Presenting Jeremy Shanker is the Corporate Wine Director for MINA Group and a renowned Master Sommelier. Explore our in-depth interview with Jeremy, featured in our "Know Your Sommeliers" series, to learn more about his knowledge, love for great wines, and insights into the wine industry. Discover his background, how he improves visitor experiences, and how he increases wine sales and profitability. Read the secrets of his success in the wine industry and get to know the man behind the title.

Your current place of work.

MINA Group

Tell us about yourself (please write min 50 words).

I am a Master Sommelier and I currently am the Corporate Wine Director for MINA Group.

Why did you want to become a sommelier?

I was fascinated by wine and how complex the world of wine is. I recognized that most people enjoy it but understand little about it, and they need that info distilled down. Early on in my career I recognized that I had a great ability to break down complicated info in a way that was relevant & meaningful to the guest experience.

Questions you would ask a customer who doesn't know anything about wine?

Are there any wines you've had in recent memory that you have enjoyed? I can select something similar to that.

What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier?

Passion, work ethic, humility, and business acumen.

How I would train my new staff member in their first 7 days of them joining.

All of our sommeliers have to learn the entire restaurant before stepping into a sommelier role. This includes working a few shifts as a server for example. In order to be the best sommelier, you need to have all the same skills that servers & server assistants have in their role. They also need to earn buy in from the team in order to be successful in their role

What methods do you use to grow wine sales - top line? Please explain with examples.

I like to incentivize the staff with competitions to motivate them. Everyone loves a prize or the potential to earn one. For example we may do a nightly sales competition the top seller gets an entree off the menu, or a monthlong competition where the winner will get a bottle of Champagne. With the right reward, the team will be motivated to sell.

What methods do you use to grow net profits.

Controlling COGS and making sure invoices are recorded in the proper month, having standard by the glass pour sizes that we test the team on, and pricing wines that will predictably sell faster at higher margins than ones that are "hand sells".

How do you self learn and improve your skills.

I personally try to visit a wine region once or twice per year. The world of wine is constantly changing, and to keep up with it, you have to go to the source when possible.

What's the best part of your job?

Builiding and mentoring a team of exceptional sommeliers.

How to you elevate guest experience. Please give 4-5 examples and insights here.

Keeping a strong guest database and remembering their preferences for thewir next visit. We share these across all of our restaurants. This way, when Mr. Smith comes into our Miami restaurant after we record notes from his Nashville visit, the team is already aware that he likes a banquette table, only drinks sparkling water, loves A5 wagyu and older Bordeaux. Sometimes we may not have something in stock but if we know a guest is coming in, we will bring in a few things in anticipation of their visit. I know that it is not lost on our VIPS that we remember those small things, which is why they continue to come back.

Your favourite TV show right now?

Succession. I can't get enough of it!

An unforgettable wine experience for you - tell us the whole story!

Drinking with Ernst Loosen in the Mosel. We travelled as a team of 10 sommeliers and had a great visit with him at 11am. He mentioned we should come back at 6 pm after our next two visits and drink some wines from his personal cellar. He kept us there until 3am and opened bottles back to the 1920s.

What are the biggest faux pas that customers tend to make when ordering and drinking wine?

Mant guests stick to brands they know. There's nothing wrong with that, but a great sommelier can take a queue from "I really like Caymus, do you have anything similiar", and bring that guest something they wouldn't be able to find at a retail store. I find that most guests favorite wine experience at a restaurant isn't when they get exactly what they order, but when they ask for a recommendation and the sommelier blows them away by introducing something new to them.

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Any favourite food and wine pairing suggestions for drinks enthusiasts?

There aren't any firm rules that cant be broken. Have fun with it and drink great wine with great dishes.

Your favourite book?

My favorite wine book is still Tom Stevenson's Sotheby's guide

What's your personal career goal? And how are you investing or planning to get there?

I would love to continue to visit my favorite wine regions. THere are so many I still haven't been to that I would love to better understand.

Give us one good story that you remember of a customer and you.

One of our biggest VIPS ordered a bottle of Masseto. As I was serving it, our food runner was placing saffron from a large tin, on a lobster dish tableside. The guest asked if I could put it in his Masseto for him. Strange request, but the guest is always right, right? He loved it.

How can suppliers work with you to drive sales?

This was answered in another survey.

Can you share with us an example of a solid wine program?

In our group, Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina, Sorelle, Estiatio Ornos.

The 2024 Sommeliers Choice Awards results are out! View the results here.