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Monday, September 21, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Alessandra Rotondi, Sommelier

Alessandra's ancestors hailed from the Chianti Classico area in Tuscany. Even before graduating in Political Sciences in Rome, where she grew up, she served as "Liason-Officer" in the Embassy of Ecuador to Italy. In 2005, Alessandra felt the need to honor her ancestors' "wine legacy." After receiving the Professional Degree of Sommelier by the Italian Sommeliers Association, in 2006, Alessandra quit the Diplomatic service to fully embrace her new career.

Today, she lives in New York. She served as Wine Director / Sommelier to many restaurants in Manhattan, such as Barbetta, the oldest Italian restaurant in the city, managing a wine list of over 1,600 labels. In 2007 Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato (Serafina Group NYC) hired her as their Executive Wine Consultant. In 2008, Alessandra served as Ivana Trump's Wine Consultant for her Wedding at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach.

Recently Alessandra has been involved in providing donors and sponsors for charity events organized by the James Beard Foundation, South Hamptons Fresh Air Home, LESC, and others.

Alessandra is also a Writer for the most specialized Italian magazines focusing on wine/food/lifestyle, Correspondent for Italian Radio Networks. She writes also for the Italian Bishops Conference, Catholic institution by the Vatican.

Recently she has been asked to represent the Italian Sommeliers Association in New York and the US East Coast and will launch this fall season a wine school on its behalf, with the patronage of the Italian Trade Commission. Alessandra cooperates also with other Italian institutions, such as the Italian Government Board of Tourism, and the Italian Academy of Food, to promote the excellence of Italian Wine and Food. All these institutions are located in Manhattan.

Because of her manifold activities the TV Network Alice Sky (the Italian “Food Network”), and the TG2, the Italian News Channel by RAI Television have nationally broadcasted stories on her, while the Italian Icon Celebrity Marta Marzotto, interviewed her for DIVA&DONNA magazine, as well as BARGIORNALE, edited by IL SOLE 24 ORE the Financial Italian Daily with a daily circulation of 400,000 copies.

Currently, she is featuring her "Wine Seduction Dinners": a ‘show-format’ wine tasting where she performs and teaches how to enjoy wine not only technically, but also as a tool of seduction, celebrating the joy of love inspired by wine.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Alessandra Rotondi for Whom You Know, and we are pleased to present her as our latest Mover and Shaker.

Peachy Deegan: How has great wine influenced your life?
Alessandra Rotondi: More than by a great wine, my life has been influenced by great people connected with wine. I still remember when I first met the wine maker Angelo Gaja. Even though he created some of the most outstanding wines in the world acquiring great fame and success, he is so accessible, sincere, down to heart, and able to transmit passionate emotions referred to wine. There can not be any great wine, without a great emotion behind.

How were your ancestors involved in the wine business?
My family came from a little town close to Siena, San Gusme’ in the Chianti Classico area. I grew up listening to my father’s memories related to wine, the harvest, how he was stomping on grapes with feet, the smell of grapes just crushed, the importance of considering wine as a “living being”. Then, he bought a vineyard close to Rome with plenty of olive trees too. It was so beautiful. My father passed away prematurely. I’m just trying to honor his memory being involved with something he loved so much.

If you could only drink 5 kinds of wine for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Respecting the correct sequence of service of wines, (sparkling, white, red, and sweet) this is my list:

- Champagne Clos d'Ambonnay 1995, Krug: Because I am worth it !

- Vintage Tunina IGT 2005, Jermann: A taste of … Elegance !

- Fontalloro IGT 2004, Felsina Berardenga: Just feeling… Home !

- Almaviva 2003, Baron Philippe de Rothschild and ViƱa Concha y Toro: Just feeling… Wild !

- Muffato della Sala IGT 2005, Castello della Sala Antinori: Just feeling… Luscious !

What mistakes do people make when choosing wine?
People too often decide according to ratings and reviews. Wine is more than high points. It’s pleasure!

What kind of wine is the Vatican into?
Well, Vatican is into any kind of wine… Without wine there wouldn’t be the Vatican and the Catholic Church. I’m joking. But from a certain point of view, it’s true: Jesus Christ used the wine and bread to spread to people his universal message of faith. There is nothing more pure, simple, accessible for everybody than bread and wine. No label or cru required !

What makes the selection of wines in Manhattan unique?
Manhattan is the center of the world. Therefore it’s normal to find rare wines coming from all the countries, made with their indigenous grapes, and to taste something different all the times.

Where are the best places to go to get the best wines in Manhattan?
Astor Wines, downtown, huge space with enormous selections, featuring nice wine events; Sherry Lehmann, upper east, more classic and a real must for wine connoisseurs.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My Mom, who was a breast cancer survivor. She passed away recently but she never gave up. Furthermore, a private Mass and audience that I had with the Holy Father John Paul II gave me an incredible strength and I felt the urge to try to be a better person.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Lying down on lawn at Cedar Hills in Central Park during spring time. Sunset among skyscrapers at Bryant Park. The view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge when lights are switched on… So powerful!

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
‘Patricia Field’: several of the outfits I wear for my wine seduction shows come from there.

What is your favorite drink?
Negroni, no doubt ! It’s so Italian… It evokes the Italian attitude to enjoy life from the very beginning: first, start with a nice aperitivo, some nice talks and light food; then, have dinner with great wines, savoring them little by little; later, let’s go dancing and then… who knows !

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
All the venues by Serafina Group (by Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato) and, among them, Serafina 61st is my favorite: the food is like the one cooked by my Mom. I have the impression all the times that she is behind the burners cooking! That’s probably why I am so happy to be part of their team. Besides them, I love Salumeria Rosi run by my friend Chef Cesare Casella.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
“What Men Don’t Want You To Know” by Stefano Spadoni, an Italian writer and journalist who has special advice for women. It reveals all the tricks of the trade that any lady should know to be successful in her personal and professional life.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I love to work out almost daily and I have to, since because of my work I have to taste wine and food all day long and I want to stay healthy. I love spinning. Once a week I swim.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Tasting gorgeous wine and food from all around the world almost 24/7.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
I’m deeply in love with Rod Stewart since I was a kid. Two years ago he performed at Madison Square Garden. I’ve been dancing all the concert long and crying at the same time for the great emotions he gave me… Let me try this: ‘Hey Rod, give me a call next time you are in the City! I’ll be your very personal Sommelier!’

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Sweet wines are underrated. People too often end their meal with coffee. Too bad: they loose the chance to enjoy a dessert wine which, besides being delicious, is also ideal to make people feel ‘sweeter’. Pinot Grigio is overrated among the Italian whites: we have many more such as Inzolia, Falanghina, Tocai, Arneis (to mention a few), and they are worthy to be known.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like Tasty Ditbits: detailed and updated information. My congratulations also for choosing the title, very intriguing.
Outside of Whom You Know, I like Page Six and Fame Game, and even though it’s not a column, quite often I log on Patrick McMullan photos’ galleries to be informed about glamorous happenings.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
People in New York refer to me as the “Wine Seduction Sommelier” for my unique events that teach the inner seductive power of wines and how to use them to connect with others. This is done during a 4 courses dinner or just as a “show” which is both entertaining and instructive.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Through my website

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