Liquid Diet: Philly Somm Gordana Kostovski Sips Her Way Through Spain—with a Side Trip to Bordeaux
A steady flow of coffee—from cappuccinos to Dunkin’ Donuts iced—and a “water buddy” help this Philadelphia-based sommelier hydrate amidst all the sherry tastings and rosé.
In our series, Liquid Diet, a professional drinker journals every sip of one beverage-packed week. Here, star Philadelphia sommelier Gordana Kostovski documents a week of wine and sherry tastings for her role as GM and somm at Spanish-themed Oloroso, where her husband is chef and owner.
11 a.m. On a base level, I don’t drink enough water. So as soon as I wake up I drink about six ounces. Poland Spring and Fuji are both basic in pH (and so better for you). By the time I get out of the shower, I push myself to drink another six ounces. I do this because I usually won’t touch water again until pre-shift at the restaurant. We just opened Oloroso about six months ago. My husband (chef Townsend “Tod” Wentz) and I have been there almost every day since it opened.
1 p.m. After trying to create some order in our house—laundry, cleaning, dishes, organization—I hit the road. On the way through Philly, I drive by the flagship shop for Inspired Brews. I usually stop on Sunday to grab some kombucha. Mint is my personal favorite, but I enjoy the strawberry and rhubarb as well. My husband loves them too, so I usually have to pick up a bunch.
11 p.m. Service is winding down. I finally open a wine that was given to me three years ago by a guest who sells wine in New Jersey. (I am grateful for others’ thoughtfulness.) It’s a 375-milliliter of C.V.N.E. Monopole Viura 1975, and Tod and I taste it together. I can’t help myself, so I open another gifted bottle from a different guest I’ve known for years. She went on a trip to Spain and brought home a rare white wine from Rueda, Dorado de Alberto 2016. It drinks beautifully. I rarely finish a bottle—just lots of tasting. When I first started drinking wine I always went to red. In my 30s, I started to really appreciate white wine.
12 p.m. I am a coffee girl. I love the smell and taste of coffee. I grab a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, cream and sugar, extra ice to cool off from the weather.
6 p.m. Tonight I am invited to compete in the first Philly Somm Like It Bordeaux event. Six teams of five somms are testing their wine knowledge, palates and wine-picking ability. My team was assigned Bordeaux blanc, and so, before this event, we each had to pick a white from Bordeaux. I picked an oldie but goodie—Château Graville-Lacoste. And now my team has to pick two of our five wines to compete against all the other wines picked by the other teams. My wine is chosen! So I consider that a win. But it doesn’t end up in the final top-two. (Of course, since this is Bordeaux, they’re both reds.)
10 a.m. I grind some Rival Brothers Revolver beans and brew coffee. I sip two cups while working around the house . . . and then I realize I need to slow down on the coffee! I snack on an avocado. My husband is trying to cut out sugars and starch, and I’m letting that influence my diet, assuming I have time to prepare something. Everything takes time.
2 p.m. I have a tasting with my Skurnik wine rep today! She is coming in with Artadi family wines, and I meet Carlos Lopez de Lacalle from the winery. First, we taste Ah-So Navarra Rosado in a can. It’s a delicious and refreshing rosé. (I order a case.) I also taste their Navarra Blanco and Tinto, and we finish with some gems, El Seque Alicante Tinto 2010, Artadi Gain 2015 and Valdegines 2014. They’re beautiful and elegant expressions of Spanish terroir.
5 p.m. Tonight we add one of my favorite rosés by the glass, Armas de Guerra. Light pale pink in color and flavors of mastika liquor on the palate. “Mastika” translates to “bubble gum” in Macedonian. My parents are both from Macedonia, and I’m always being reminded of experiences from my childhood. At Oloroso, our wood-burning oven reminds me of vacations to Macedonia, where peppers and wood ovens are a way of life.
Later, a friend stops by the restaurant to say hello. We sit outside and catch up, taking in the night. She is in the mood for rosé, so I open a bottle of Partida Creus CV, which leads to two then a bottle of Els Jelipins from Penedès. It was a good day.
1 p.m. I stop into La Colombe in Fishtown to grab a cappuccino and a croissant. On my way to work, I usually pick up my wine and liquor order at the state store, which is conveniently located a street behind Oloroso. In my 20-plus years in the biz, I have never had such a convenience. Pennsylvania is a Commonwealth state, so all liquor and wine purchases go through the state. The distributor or wine merchant delivers your wine to the state store and then the restaurant has to pick it up. I usually leave the store with my car packed to the roof.
Today, I pick up something I can’t wait to drink and offer to our guests. A couple months ago, we hosted a wine tasting for Bodegas Alonso. This historic winery was taken over by new owners who have refused to compromise the character of the original sherry left there by the previous owner. It’s a romantic family-driven story that reminds me of why I love Spanish culture. My order of their Manzanilla Velo Flor has arrived. We will have to toast with our guests tonight.
6 p.m. A friend is coming to town—a rare treat. I can’t remember the last time I had dinner with a friend. We served together many years ago when I first started in the restaurant business. Even though it’s tough to get together, we’re still close friends after all these years. She’s moving to South Carolina for her family, so I’m grateful to have dinner with her, and it gives me a great reason to check out the new menu A Mano, which is one of Tod’s three restaurants. I bring three bottles: R. Pouillon Solera Champagne, Foradori Fontanasanta Nosiola 2016 and a Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino 2012 whose label reminds me of my friend. I take a photo to mark the occasion. I take photos of the food, but I’m really not very good at sharing on social media.
11 a.m. I brew Rival Bros coffee and sip on it. I snack on a Vermont English muffin, toasted with Soppressata. Today I’m headed to northern New Jersey. I was born in NYC and raised in north Jersey. I’m taking my dad for a doctor’s visit. My mom greets me with a Turkish coffee and the house smells of freshly prepared sautéed tomatoes and peppers.
Ever since I was little, I have helped my dad with his business. He owned and rented properties. I was always the translator because my parents didn’t speak English very well. These days I help with health care and chauffeuring. On the way home from the doctor, we stop at a local Turkish bakery. We snag some simple loaves of bread and some imported Uludag Gazoz orange soda and Sarikiz natural mineral water to be savored on the way home.
6 p.m. In the restaurant biz, we run around thirsty and usually hungry. Time flies during service, and the next thing you know it’s the end of the night. My younger sister has coached me to find a “water buddy” to help remind me to drink more water. It seems the right buddy for me is really a container. An Asobu Mini Hiker bottle helps me to drink more water. We also have a filtration system at the restaurant that makes the water smell and taste great.
2 p.m. Every Friday is staff training. Today we taste the first release of Llenca Plana 2016. The wine is juicy and open with a truly eye-catching label. The team loves it! We will offer it as an addition by the glass for the evening.
11 p.m. Guests ordered the Llenca Plana by the glass and also ordered it by the bottle. Win!!! Sometimes when I get home, I enjoy a refreshing Perrier grapefruit or strawberry in a can. Always in a can. Tonight it’s strawberry.
10 a.m. We grab a ride down to the river to spend time outside with our pit bull, and on the way back to the house we grab two hot coffees. My husband makes fun of me because I nurse my coffee for hours.
10 p.m. During tonight’s shift I’m enticed by our cocktail program. I start to crave a margarita. At the end of the night, I ask our bartender for one on the rocks, no salt. Reposado or Añejo tequila only as I have to taste the wood influence on the tequila. Another good day.