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Secrets of the Sommeliers

Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr

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World of Wine with Rajat Parr

Rajat Parr, Mina Group’s Wine Director, talks about his approach to wine and how wine is part of life and every meal.

Kermit Lynch

Rajat Parr's story behind Sandhi Wines

Rajat Parr: The Wine Itself

A Chat with Rajat Parr

From the moment sommelier Rajat Parr wakes in the morning, wine consumes him. It is more than his job. It is his life. Parr grew up in Calcutta and had never tasted wine until his twenties. But from the instant his curiosity was sparked, he immersed himself in every aspect of the industry. Parr has learned from extraordinary mentors, studied diligently and worked at some of the nation’s top restaurants. Today the sommelier, author and Mina Group Wine Director has added winemaker to his long list of vinous accomplishments. And his new label, Sandhi Wines, is already turning heads.

What fuels your passion for wine?

Wine changed my life. And for me, it captures every element of what’s happening today culturally and socially, as well as what I find intellectually inspiring. I have met all of my closest friends through wine and on every great occasion, we celebrate with wine.

You have access to vineyards all over the world. Why did you choose to make wine in Santa Barbara County?

I feel like Santa Barbara County has the most promise of any new wine region in California. It is the only place where I can produce the style of wines I like — wines that are intense and rich with balance and vibrancy.

How has becoming a winemaker changed your perspective as a sommelier?

It’s a very humbling experience. I felt like writing the book exposed a lot, but making wine reveals even more. The style of wine I’m trying to produce reflects my style, the flavors and textures that I enjoy. In that sense, it’s very personal.

Tell us about the name "Sandhi Wines."

"Sandhi" is an ancient Sanskrit word that means "collaboration." It reflects the partnership between me, Charles Banks (the former owner of Screaming Eagle and Jonata) and winemaker Sashi Moorman.

What specific qualities did you look for when selecting a winemaker to work with?

Someone who listens and can execute the idea of the wine from the vineyard to the cellar. Sashi is one of the most intelligent winemakers I have met. Together we have discovered how to push the envelope in producing wines.

For more information on Sandhi Wines, visit www.sandhiwines.com.

In Secrets of the Sommeliers, you encourage readers to “taste what’s in the glass, not what’s in your mind.” Can you elaborate on that?

Yes, it’s important to disregard labels and taste with your heart rather than your head. Wine has soul. That’s what we recognize when tasting blind. It’s not just the code of the samurai.

Do you always carry a corkscrew?

Usually. Just not on days when I fly. My favorite is a Code-38 from Australia. It’s beautifully crafted and comfortable — the best of the best.

You write, “If you love a wine, you have to see where it came from.” Where are you headed next?

Burgundy. I am also planning trips to Savoie, Corsica, Provence and Languedoc so that I can get a better sense of the wines from those regions.

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