Teddy Panos is the Wine Director at Stake Chophouse and Bar.
Everyone has a story. Tell us how you knew you wanted to become a sommelier? What was your “light bulb” moment?
Being Greek, food and wine is a very important part of our heritage and the dinner table has always been my favorite place to enjoy this with my family.
I started working in restaurants when I was in high school. After graduation, I decided to go to Culinary school. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best French chefs in the country. I loved the structure of the kitchen brigade. This is where I was first introduced to food and wine pairings. This became my passion. Creating an experience in our dining room for our guests every evening was reminiscent of my family dinners as a child. Food and wine along with service was becoming the main focus. It was a very exhilarating time cooking regional fare and learning “what grows together, goes together”.
The first time I truly experienced food and wine pairing was when I was 19 years old. I was an apprenticing chef working with Jean Joho of Everest Room in Chicago. The chef took me and a fellow colleague to dinner at a friend’s restaurant. Joho ordered a bottle wine. The Chef of the restaurant prepared an amazing dinner and I was beginning to appreciate wine and food together. What an exciting evening! I had no idea how spectacular the wine was until years later. Our wine that evening was a 1982 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild! The wine was such a baby at the time with only ten years of age. I would love to revisit that bottle today!
Years later, I arrived in California after owning my own restaurant. Honestly, I found it difficult to work in someone else’s kitchen. The only logical step following my passion for food and wine was to take a front of the house position in some of San Diego’s best restaurants. I always enjoyed guest interaction. Later my employer at the time offered the opportunity to take the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory level and the Certified level. It was at this point I decided this was the next step of my career and chose to pursue the profession of Sommelier.
You work at one of San Diego’s most innovative steak houses, what is your go to wine to pair with the perfect ribeye?
Ribeye is very well marbled and flavorful. I would pair a wine from the left bank of Bordeaux for a classic paring. If my guest was feeling adventurous, I would recommend a Tannat from France. There are also some spectacular New World producers. Tannat’s austerity and full body pair perfectly with the intense marbling and full flavor of the ribeye.
When serving fine wine, how important is the glass and the presentation? What qualities do you look for in stemware?
Stemware is just as important as the wine you are serving. I prefer varietal specific glassware.
I look for proper size, shape and rim of the bowl. Clarity of the glass and stem are equally as important. The stem is important to control temperature. I am NOT a fan and don’t recommend stemless wine glasses.
Chef & Sommelier’s Cabernet Stemware is known for its clarity. You mentioned clarity is important, can you give more details on how it changes the wine experience?
Clarity is very important. You use all your senses when enjoying wine. You want a clear picture. It’s the very first impression of what’s in the glass.
What wine industry publications do you read?
SOMM Journal, Tasting Panel, and Wine Spectator.
If you could get your hands on any bottle of wine in the world, what would it be?
A pre-phylloxera Bordeaux such as an 1870 Chateau Lafite-Rothchild or Chateau Latour.
Do you have one tip to help select a better bottle of wine?
Don’t feel afraid to ask questions. Most people feel intimidated by a wine list. The sommelier is there to help.
Learn more about Sommelier Teddy Panos on his Somm’s List profile HERE.