Originally from Salt Lake City, Joshua Orr is the director of beverage, advanced sommelier at Marina Kitchen, which is located at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina in downtown.
Q: Does the average diner understand the role of the sommelier?
A: I think the average diner has an old-school view of sommeliers with penguin tuxedos and tasting cup necklaces. The new generation of sommeliers are all about providing a unique and memorable experience. I want to give the guest the best wine possible based on what they like, how much they want to spend and the food from our menu they’ve selected. Our restaurant is about the comforts of home and it is my job as our sommelier to help inspire that feeling in the guest when it comes to wine.
Q: What is the process in becoming a sommelier?
A: There are a couple of different wine certifications that can be pursued but the gold standard is the Court of Master Sommeliers. They offer four different levels of examinations that increase in difficulty as you go through them. The final exam is one of the World’s most difficult and is the Master Sommelier exam. There are only around 200 Master Sommeliers in the world. I am an Advanced Sommelier which is the step before becoming a Master Sommelier. There are only around 400 Advanced Sommeliers in the world, so it is fairly elite as well. It is a serious group of wine nerds, but we all love what we do.
Q: What does your role consist of on a daily basis at Marina Kitchen?
A: My role at the Marina Kitchen is twofold. I am the bar manager as well as the sommelier. So I do have managerial responsibilities but I try to limit those once I am on the floor so that I can focus on the guests and the wines being served that evening. I also maintain our spectacular glassed in wine cellar and conduct tastings in it with guests from time to time. It is an amazing room that needs to be seen. Quite special for a restaurant in a hotel.
Q: What are a few important things to keep in mind when pairing wine with food?
A: For me it is all about two things, intensity and history. Think about the intensity in a dish and just how flavorful it is or isn’t. If you have a dish that is a 10 then you are going to need a wine that can go toe-to-toe with it and not curl up and hide in the corner. History is less simply stated as “what grows together goes together.” If a wine and a dish are from the same region, the safe bet is that they will pair well together. There is a reason that wines and dishes were made and served together in regions around the world. Most likely it is because people generally like things that taste good and have a harmony when paired together.
Q: Any recent trends you’ve noticed in the industry, or in the way people order wine?
A: Absolutely, and they are trends that make me genuinely excited as a sommelier. The first is rosé. People are drinking more and more of it and beginning to forget about the white zinfandel stigma that has plagued the rosé category for so long. Dry rosés are wonderful wines because they are a red wine pretending to be white. They have a little something for everyone and are incredibly versatile when it comes to food.
Q: What do you think makes a good wine list?
A: Functionality with the restaurant it is in. The wine list should tell a story about the person/group that put it together. I can usually tell a lot about an establishment and the people involved based on looking at their beverage programs.
Q: How seriously do restaurants take the storage of wine?
A: I can’t speak for all restaurants, but at Marina Kitchen we take it seriously. Our glassed-in wine cellar has tinted windows and is constantly maintained at 55 degrees to ensure optimum storage. I have two separate fridges at the bar for our wines on tap so that the whites can be served at proper temperature as well as the reds. Wine is a living, breathing thing and if it is beaten up and abused it will show that in the glass.
Q: What is the first thing someone learning about wine should know?
A: That you are never going to know it all. I study wine on a daily basis and still feel that the wine world and the knowledge it contains is incredibly daunting. Piggy-backing on that idea, don’t be afraid to try something new. You will never know what you love unless you try it.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring sommeliers?
A: Never stop reading and tasting. That is one of my favorite things. To read about a region or wine that has great history to it and be able to go out, purchase it and partake in that. It is like seeing a movie but then being able to transport yourself into the movie while watching it.
The Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar in Mission Hills is hosting a four-course Chef's Market Dinner at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15, honoring Julia Child on what would have been her 100th birthday.
The event commences with a tour of the nearby Mission Hills Farmers Market, with special guest guide Chef Amy Finley, a San Diego resident, author and season five winner of The Next Food Network Star. Next, guests will return to the restaurant for a French-insprired four-course meal, prepared by Chef Miguel Valdez and his team. Finley, will regale guests with tales of her time in France after leaving her Food Network show, The Gourmet Next Door, to repair her family, as outlined in her book, "How to Eat a Small Country". She will also provide tips for French cooking, with an emphasis on ingredients.
Dinner costs $48 – or $73 with wine pairing. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program, of which The Red Door is a part.