How Cinder House sommelier Alisha Blackwell-Calvert fell in love with wine | Bars

house of ashes Sommelier Alisha Blackwell-Calvert didn’t start her career as a wine expert. While working as a waitress, she was intrigued by the intricacies of the dining experience, particularly how wine relates to it. “I fell in love with wine, said Blackwell-Calvert. “Why does wine occupy such a large place in the culinary experience? Why do people want to drink wine? Why do people want to pair wine together? Why?

To satisfy her curiosity, Blackwell-Calvert began reading and researching everything she could about wine and tasting different types of wine and cheese with her colleagues. Blackwell-Calvert also says she’s a “science geek, thus, the intricacies of the winemaking process, such as soil chemistry and vine biology, appealed to her even more.

“Once you start going down that rabbit hole, it’s so hard to get out, said Blackwell-Calvert. “Because every time you learn something about wine, you realize you don’t know anything.

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Blackwell-Calvert became a sommelier at Reed’s American Table and eventually worked her way up to beverage manager. While there, Reed’s was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Restaurants three times.

Amid the pandemic shutdowns, Blackwell-Calvert had to take a job as a sales associate at Louis Vuitton, where she used her high-end sales skills in a new way. She loved the job too, but when she got a job as sommelier for Cinder House, she knew that was where she was meant to be.

“I can feel it in my heart that this is what I’m supposed to do, she says. “As soon as I got to Cinder House on this floor, it’s like riding a bike. So do I think I’ll do something different? I could, but I know deep down that I was made to be a sommelier.

Blackwell-Calvert also partners with Bluewood Brewing to help create its award-winning meads.

Here, Blackwell-Calvert reveals one of the oldest bottles of wine she’s ever had, her favorite food in St. Louis right now, and her distaste for overly buttery Chardonnays.

What’s the best thing you’ve ordered recently at a local bar or restaurant? I like to eat and drink, even outside of work. One of my favorite places is Louie on Demun, and I think a lot of people can agree with that. Their octopus dish at the moment is magnificent. I love him so much. The octopus is so tasty and tender. The chickpeas give a very nice texture. There’s pancetta in the dish, fried potatoes. This whole combination is so delicious to me. It’s the perfect amount of saltiness, a little spice. It feels like eating out of St. Louis. Then pair it with a bit of Franciacorta, it’s a sparkling wine; it’s such a fun and delicious dish.

What is the best style of pizza? My favorite style of pizza is Neapolitan. My heart leans towards tradition. Neapolitan pizza with pepperoni and hot honey is my new thing. I don’t know where hot honey has been all my life, but I need it.

Hospices de Beaune Savigny-Lès-Beaune

Photo courtesy of Alisha Blackwell

What is your favorite culinary memory? At Casa Don Alfonso at the Ritz, I was having dinner with one of my best friends, Angela Ortman, who is STL Wine Girl, and we somehow acquired a bottle of 1931 Hospices de Beaune Savigny-Les-Beaune. This is the oldest pinot noir I’ve ever had in my life, and it was still intact. I was completely blown away. He had fruit; it had a magnificent structure. Like something so old, like 90 years old, that still had so much elegance. It was so beautiful. It should have been vinegar – and it could have been, and no one would have been mad – but it was pretty. So beautiful. Pinot Noir is such a grape goddess. It’s so elegant when done right.

What ingredients do you think everyone should keep at home and why? My husband does all the cooking. One of the things we must have in our house is garlic. We put crushed garlic in everything. My husband likes to cook; he insists on it. And it has the advantage of having a sommelier. So he cooks [and] I take out wine to accompany a meal. It’s the best wedding ever. We must have extra garlic in everything. So take a recipe that contains garlic, then double it. This is the amount of garlic we want.

What is your most controversial food opinion? I think this super buttery Chardonnay should go away and never be produced again. I think they are wonky and hard to associate with food. I don’t like a lot of butter and wine. Butter belongs to pasta. It’s controversial because I know some people prefer chardonnay over butter and the butterier it is, the better. I don’t agree with that. I can’t take this train. I’m sorry, all of you.

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Raymond I. Langston