Sommeliers of the Year
Eric Railsback's 5 Defining Wines
Sommelier Eric Railsback
Photo © Emily Railsback

Eric Railsback, from Les Marchands in Santa Barbara, CA, is one of Food & Wine's 2014 Sommeliers of the Year. Here, he names 5 key bottles that have defined his career.

Fred Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner
"My introduction to wine was through my older brother when I was super-young. He was a sommelier while he was in college, and he'd come home and have all these bottles hidden in his room. We'd look through them with the door locked and sometimes try them. I think I was about 13 when he opened up this bottle of Lois Grüner Veltliner. It was round and spicy and easy drinking. It was the first wine that made me think, Wow, I really like this! I think it was a $10 bottle or something, but in my mind, it was epic."

Raveneau Valmur Chablis
"I was working as a clerk at the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara during college. This was the first grand cru I bought, and it was $140, which was a lot for me at the time. My dad was a professor, so I didn't really have tuition bills. I pretty much spent $1,000 a month learning about wine."

Knoll Schütt Smaragd Riesling
"I went to work at Knoll while I was in college, and I really fell in love. The Rieslings have such complexity, and the price-to-quality is hard to beat. The best white Burgundies are five times the price."

Dujac Echézeaux
"I really wanted to work at Dujac in Burgundy. I called them every single night, and they eventually had a slot for me in 2007, when I was 19. So there I was, drinking wines from the '30s and '40s from all of these famous producers. The 1969 is super-rare; it's from the first year that winemaker Jacques Seysses started making wine."

Breton Beaumont Chinon
"My brother also introduced me to this. He's now the national sales manager for its importer, Kermit Lynch. Thanks to carbonic maceration [a fermentation technique using whole, not crushed, grapes], it has this great, high-toned freshness. It really got me into this style of wine. There's a different pleasure in wines that you don't have to sit and think about. And it's how I styled the Lieu Dit wines that I'm making."

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