New Wine Program Blends Big Names, Small Production
Meat Market, South Beach’s sizzling contemporary dining destination, has received rave reviews and accolades for executive chef Sean Brasel’s modern steakhouse cuisine, stunning decor and bustling atmosphere. The restaurant also boasts a happening bar scene, great service and thanks to Meat Market’s recently-appointed sommelier Sarah Almand, a newly expanded world class wine list.
Almand (32) hails from Northern California; there, surrounded by the most renowned wine programs and restaurants, Almand developed an early passion for wine. In the restaurant industry since age 16, Almand immersed herself in various wine programs with breadth of regions, styles and vintages. After graduating college, Almand moved to San Francisco where she worked under the tutelage of wine director Matthew Turner at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay and began studying for the Court of Master Sommeliers. Shortly thereafter, Almand accepted a position at Bacchus Management and opened Spruce restaurant in the Presidio, where she helped develop the wine program containing 1300 bottles. A few years and a move to Colorado later, Turner once again contacted Almand to lure her south and assist with the wine program at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in Aventura, Florida.
At South Beach’s critically-acclaimed Meat Market, Almand has broadened the existing wine program to balance the big name and well-known players in the market with small-production, esoteric wines for the savvy consumer. The wine list traverses both the old and new world with a strong slate of big reds at its core. Almand adds lesser known wines from emerging markets like Rio Negro or Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, in an effort to expose her customers to new experiences. “I wanted to integrate all of the great wines I have worked with to give guests the chance to step out of their comfort zone and try something different,” Almand explains.
Almand also considers how well the wine matches Brasel’s cuisine, and how many different dishes it complements. She also assesses each wine’s value and perceived value and whether it’s something guests will appreciate. Being at a high-end steakhouse, Almand realizes that most customers gravitate to big reds and New World wines. However, the added influence of her favorite wines from Burgundy, the Mosel, Patagonia and Austria, has received enormous praise and appreciation from diners.
Almand’s wine school and continual staff training at Meat Market are of utmost importance to her program. Blind tastes with the staff occur regularly, using a deductive format to break down the elements of each wine so each server understands them from an objective perspective. “Tasting memory is a powerful tool. My goal is to give each staff member an arsenal of 25 wines or so, allowing them to confidently explain and sell wines in all categories and price levels,” Almand explains.
As part of her new wine program, Almand has recently launched a series of wine dinners, bringing interesting wines and winemakers to South Florida. The recent Ferarri Carano dinner was a smashing sold-out success and the upcoming Étude event promises the same. Wine dinners are accessible and affordable and meant to introduce diners to new wineries and cuisine.
Meat Market is located at 915 Lincoln Road on South Beach. The Crudo bar opens nightly at 5 p.m.; the full dinner menu is served from 6 p.m. – midnight, Sunday – Thursday and 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Valet parking for Meat Market is available for $5, seven nights a week, on the corner of Jefferson and Lincoln Road. Telephone: (305) 532-0088. www.meatmarketmiami.com