Catherine Fallis is one of the best know female Sommeliers in the world (the fifth woman in the world to have earned the title of Master Sommelier). The Luxury Travel Bible loves her passion and her style. She is creator of the grape goddess® guides to good living and a range of lifestyle guidebooks, seminars, TV, and educational programs on wine, food, and travel, including Wine, Champagne & Sparkling Wine, and Erotic Foods, and of the Six Week Wine Expert, Lessons from a grape goddess®. From Manhattan to Honolulu, Aspen to Los Angeles and San Francisco, Catherine has shared her wine expertise with hundreds of novices and collectors including Heather Locklear, Ivana and Ivanka Trump, Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner, Robert Redford, Richie Sambora, and Diana Krall.
Without doubt you have bought a new level of glamour to the world of wine,
What is the single best/defining thing about
your Grape Goddess style?
I like to "bring wine down to earth," and make it fun and approachable for people. Wine offers so much joy and pleasure, yet
so many find it uncomfortable and intimidating.
The New York Times has said you are 'one of the faces leading the changing of the guard' -what made you decide to become a sommelier?
I went to Hotel School. I knew I wanted to travel the world, and once I started bumming around in Europe, meeting everyday people there, taking the trains everywhere, even camping, out, I discovered that the food and drink was quite delicious, and that all it took was a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese, and a bottle of local wine to have a delicious, satisfying meal that even someone on a $5/day budget could afford. I was intrigued that the wine was a reflection of the culture of the area - Bordeaux is formal, imposing, important and so are the locals there. Burgundy is sexy and perfumed, more artistic.
As you go south, everything is more relaxed and less structured. That was my first lesson in wine. When I returned to the US I knew I wanted to work in wine, food, or hospitality and during my third job as a restaurant manager I started taking wine classes.
... and why a
My lover and I spent two weeks touring the French Riviera, from Provence to the Cote d'Azur, from St. Tropez to Cannes, and finally, to Monaco. We stopped for meals at the homes of his colleagues and friends - mostly other well-known French sommeliers, and each time would be greeted at the door with a bottle of Champagne and a sword.
Our host would promptly hand the bottle and sword over to my handsome companion, who would saber it with great aplomb. After a while I said, "I want to try it." They all looked at me with shock. Why would a silly American girl want to do this? And could she pull it off? I had watched every move and was confident I could, and thankfully, when finally given the chance, I was successful!
Later when I worked with Mumm Champagne, their Ambassador Philippe Nusswitz helped me refine my technique, even showing me how to saber with a butter knife.
You worked with some of the best in the business.
Who have been your major influences and inspirations?
Kevin Zraly who founded the Windows on the World Wine School at the World Trade Center has been the most influential person in my wine career. He opened the door for me, gave me a chance. He was very supportive of young women as well as young men.
At that time the door was shut on many young women looking to work as a sommelier or in a wine shop. His style, very down to earth and fun and engaging, was a breath of fresh air after returning from Europe, where wine is a part of every day life for even the lowest income earners. Everything gelled for me then.
What is the next big wine trend?
Wine on tap, and fun and creative packaging being finally accepted in the USA like it already is in Australia and many parts of the world. And finally, the young female wine expert.
What is your own personal litmus test for what constitutes a good wine list?
I look for balance, a selection that pairs wells with the food and the theme, that offers excellent selections across the spectrum of price, that features artisanal producers
as well as the big names. I love to support the family-owned businesses.
What are your favourite restaurants? (and why)
Boulevard in San Francisco is one of my favorites - the food and service is amazing and the sommelier team offers great wines at reasonable prices, and I just had a terrific meal and wines at St. Vincent. Peppoli at Pebble Beach in Monterey is another warm, comfortable and elegant dining room with exquisite Italian food and wine and a view of the bay that is one of the most spectacular in the world. Le Louis XV in Monaco sets the bar for the rest of the world. For casual beach food I enjoy Club 55 in St. Tropez and Tatu in San Juan Les Pins. I had a memorable meal of Angus Beef and Yorkshire Pudding after passing my last exam at the
Dorchester in London.
Badia a Passignano in Chianti Classico has a cheese cart with over 300 types of local cheeses. Da Corrado is down a hidden alleyway in the backstreets of Rome. The owners come and sit down with you to discuss what you are having, telling jokes like you are one of the family.
Ferran Adria's La Alqueria, Hacienda Benazazu, elbulli hotel, Sevilla was the most unusual meal I have ever had. Santceloni, Madrid showcases the local wine and food beautifully and of course the service is very polished. Mama Africa, Capetown
was casual, and definitely touristy, but where else can you get alligator skewers and $5 bottles of delicious sparkling wine?
What is your favourite city to visit?
Well, that is a tough question. There are so many. I suppose I should mention Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, London, Rome, Florence, you know - all the typical ones - but I fell in love with San Sebastian, Spain; Cork, Ireland; Corfu, Santorini, Thessaloniki and Amydeon, Greece; Ghana, Africa, and Kona and Hana, Hawaii. Obviously I am tremendously excited to visit Sydney for the first time.
What is your best overseas travel experience?
I have been fortunate to have travelled so extensively in my early twenties on a shoestring budget with not even a credit card, experiencing the culture through the generosity of the locals, many of whom shared their bread, cheese, and wine, and invited us in to dine and even stay overnight.
The Irish win the most hospitable award but the many villages, towns and cities I visited in Italy have really changed the way I view the world and live my life.
What is on your where to next wishlist?
Sailing to the Great Barrier Reef on the Seabourn Quest, of course! And I'd love to explore New Zealand, visit the Dalmatian Coast, Sicily, Prague, and Alaska. I've always dreamed of riding horseback on the beaches of Ireland's West Coast.
Who would you most like to sit next to on a plane?
What three things do you never travel without?
California wines to share with friends at my destination. Comfortable walking shoes, stretch pants, and a bathing suit.
What is the one travel experience you will never forget?
There are so many, but a standout would be sailing directly into the small city of Seville on the Seabourn Legend.
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN
What is the most important thing it can't?
Better dining companions