As with many wine professionals, Chris Gaither walked a somewhat circuitous route to get where he is now. His first restaurant job was merely a means to pay bills while he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. There, he studied Spanish Language with the goal of ending up in education. After graduation, however, he realized that he felt most at home in the restaurant business, and decided to stay in it for a little longer. He accepted a server position at another Atlanta restaurant, One Midtown Kitchen, from where he would develop a keen interest in wine. He naturally began to study towards gaining certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers, quickly passing his Introductory and Certified exams.
Chris continued to look for ways to expand his knowledge of food and wine, which led him to Restaurant Eugene, a fine dining restaurant with a focus on tasting menus and wine pairings. His hard work paid off when he was offered a coveted wine internship at The French Laundry. Under the direction of Dennis Kelly, MS, Chris learned stellar cellar management along with the importance of the small details in elevating a dining experience. When a full-time sommelier position opened at Spruce, in San Francisco, he jumped at the chance to work with the extensive, Burgundy-heavy wine list, under the tutelage of Wine Director Andrew Green, and eventually became Lead Sommelier. In 2013 he got the chance to run his own program when he became the Wine Director at Restaurant Gary Danko, another in a long line of prestigious restaurants in his history. Chris and his wife Master Sommelier Rebecca Fineman recently opened the wine-focussed, San Francisco Dogpatch restaurant, Ungrafted. He is now studying for his Master Sommelier diploma.
Chris’s accolades are numerous but include: 2012 Best New Sommeliers (Wine and Spirits Magazine); 2013 Top New Somm Competition Winner (Guild of Sommeliers); 2013 Zagat 30 Under 30. Chris is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, he passed the theory portion of the Master Sommelier exam in 2016 and will be taking service and tasting in 2017. He also holds a WSET Advanced Level Certification.
What is your favorite wine region to visit?
I don’t feel that I’ve traveled enough to properly answer this (there are always more places to go…), but at the moment, Willamette Valley.
What is your favorite class to teach?
Somm Essentials, especially because there is so much detail involved in understanding what you need to know about wine well before you get a chance to sell it.
What's your most memorable wine experience?
Drinking Pierre Peters and watching the sunset at Ocean Beach with my wife.
Why did you decide to become an instructor?
I feel that great wine and great stories deserve a great storyteller.
What's your most memorable food and wine pairing?
Champagne and popcorn at the movies, particularly a bottle of Agrapart Venus.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Not forgetting that there is a great deal of power in words.
What other passions beside wine do you have?
Most importantly, people. After that, long-distance running.
Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.
Filipa Pato’s 3B Sparkling Rose. Refreshing, charming, and a great addition to the table for an evening of dinner and conversation with friends.
If you could teach anyone in the world, who would you want to teach?
My late aunt, Laurine Weaver. I wish she could be here to see what I’ve learned.
What do you think is the most unappreciated wine or region in the world?
Champagne. People pop it open to celebrate an occasion, and many don’t even finish their glass after toasting.