Meet your sommelier: Zachary Lewison of Swiss Chalet
Editor’s Note: The Vail Daily features chefs and sommeliers participating in this year’s Taste of Vail which returns to the slopes and streets of Vail April 5, 8. Zachary Lewison is the sommelier and beverage manager at Swiss Chalet de the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail and is also a board member of Taste of Vail.
Q: What is your name, where is your restaurant located and what is your official title?
A: My name is Zachary Lewison and I am Sommelier and Beverage Manager at Swiss Chalet.
Q: How long have you been at Chalet Suisse?
A: I started working at the Swiss Chalet restaurant in 2015 and worked my way up the restaurant ranks from server to supervisor to assistant manager to sommelier and beverage manager.
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Q: How long have you been involved with Taste of Vail?
A: This will be my second year as a board member of Taste of Vail, which I attended as a guest in 2019.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to become a sommelier?
A: Working at the Swiss Chalet as a waiter awoke in me a curiosity for wine. This curiosity turned into passion and a thirst to know more. I was grateful to have the support of Sonnenalps and an extensive wine program to learn from.
Q: Who has inspired you throughout your oenological journey?
A: Master Sommelier Damon Ornowski has always guided me and helped me hone my tasting skills. He always made the wine industry more accessible and encouraged me to grow.
Q: Why is it fun to participate in food and wine events like Taste of Vail?
A: The Taste of Vail allows restaurants and wineries to truly showcase their best offerings. Being able to come together in person and celebrate our products and our passions creates a lively energy.
Q: What Taste of Vail seminars are must-sees for wine lovers?
A: My favorites are the Sturia Caviar and Wine Seminar (Friday, April 7, 4-5 p.m.) and A Taste of Colorado Wine Seminar (Saturday, April 8, 11:30-12:30).
Q: What advice do you have for first-time wine drinkers considering coming to Taste of Vail?
A: Be prepared to try different styles of wine. I think there is a time and a place for all wine and who knows, you might find yourself like a wine you least expected to enjoy.
Q: Why is it important to have winemakers at events like Taste of Vail?
A: The presence of winemakers separates the Taste of Vail from other wine events, as it gives the winemaker the opportunity to educate their tasters. It also puts a face to the bottle. Storytelling is so important to connecting with your audience. Today, customers want to know more than the taste of wine. They are looking for a real connection.
Q: The Debut of Ros event is on Wednesdays (3-6pm). What are your favorite dishes with ros?
A: I would try to pair rosé wines with a light and playful dish, such as an arugula and radicchio salad with grapes, hazelnuts, melons and a light vinaigrette or an overnight brined chicken served with risotto herb cream.
Q: The Niman Ranch Iberian Duroc Pork Challenge and After Tasting will take place on Thursday (3-6 p.m.). What wines go well with pork?
A: Pork can be a great blank palette for chefs to use to put their creative spin on. For a spicy pork dish, I would try to find a wine like Riesling or Gewürztraminer that has a bit of sugar to help balance the food. For a more earthy pork dish, I would try to find a good pinot noir to accompany the dish. And, you can always find that sparkling wines will go with just about anything!
Q: What is your favorite grape variety?
A: My favorite grape should be Pinot Noir. I love all the different expressions of the grape variety from Russian River to Burgundy, New Zealand and everywhere in between.
Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing when you go out to eat or at home?
A: My wife is the chef at home, so it is my responsibility to provide the wine for dinner. My favorite pairing would have to be his dish of roasted cauliflower and chickpeas with a Russian River Pinot Noir that’s aged about 5-7 years in bottle.
Q: What is your favorite wine region to visit and taste wines?
A: I spent a year in Sonoma and loved the diversity of the area! Sonoma has such a wide range of climates that make it possible to produce so many different grapes and styles. Also, I would highly recommend visiting Palisade, Colorado for a quick and easy trip to an area that’s getting really serious about winemaking. It’s exciting to see the evolution of Colorado wines as they begin to better understand what the grapes do best for our region.
Q: Is there anything else about you that we should share?
A: Make sure you have fun and drink responsibly! We’re still around 8,000 feet above sea level, so stay hydrated, eat good food, and you’ll have a great time at the events!
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