Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I was born in Spain, in the town of Vedra, Santiago de Compostela, which is very close to Ponte Vedra (Spain). My family had farms and they made wine, which they sold to a winery, so I was exposed to wine in my early life. They moved to Havana, Cuba, and had an import-export business. I came to the United States to go to engineering school, where I got a degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I worked for AT&T and retired early, deciding to open a deli and wine shop in Ponte Vedra, Florida, which I had for nine years. After that, I got involved with some restaurants in the Jacksonville area, helping with the wine list and training the wait staff in the matching of food and wine.
What is the process of becoming a sommelier?
There are different levels all the way to master sommelier. At the beginning, you have to acquire a palate to be able to identify the different flavors in the wine and the grape varietals. There are classes that you can take, and the exam consists of tasting as well as a written portion. In the higher levels, it becomes more difficult since you have to identify where the wine comes from, the year and also the varietals. It becomes more difficult with a blended wine. Also, the knowledge of pairing food and wine is important.
What is your favorite wine and why?
Since the beginning, I have been fascinated by the wines of Bordeaux in France because they are blends that express the "terroir" and the winemaking expertise that can change every year due to elements beyond our control, such as weather. I also like cabernet sauvignon from California, which has grown incredibly in quality in the last 30 years, again due to the winemaking in this country and finding the best land to grow it.
Where do you most enjoy going for a wine-related trip?
I have always enjoyed going to California during harvest to experience what is involved in making wine and meeting winemakers, owners, vineyard managers and the different people involved in the process of making wine. I’ve had the opportunity to to stay in some of the wineries that have guest houses, which was an incredible experience. In addition, I’ve had the chance to taste wines that are only available at the winery.
What makes you so passionate about wine?
Owning a wine shop and working in restaurants have contributed to my passion for wine. Also, as a wine collector, I have found that some wines evolve with time, as long as they are kept in the right conditions, with temperature being a key element in preserving the aging process. The amazing thing is to taste them at different stages and to see how they change over time.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
I got to know Ponte Vedra in the late 80s during my travels with the company and bought a condominium in the area. I didn't think I was going to retire in the area and open a deli and wine shop. I joined the Ponte Vedra Lodge, which gave me access to the beach and their wonderful facilities. I love the moderate temperatures, the easygoing lifestyle and the many wonderful people that I have met. I left the area for a while, but I always come back. Now, I plan to be here permanently.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to work out at the gym and walk on the beach to keep myself in good physical condition. I still do wine tastings for different groups in the area to keep myself busy and keep my interest in the wine business. I also like to attend wine dinners in the area, as well as tastings. In addition, I do like to go on cruises, as well as travel to visit family and friends. But I always am happy to come home to Ponte Vedra.