Mr. Cesar Varela – Peru / USA-DC (Wine Director)

May 2, 2018

Name: Cesar Varela

Nationality: Peruvian

At the moment: USA-Washington DC

Wine Director 


Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?

It all began 8 years ago when I started working as a server at Charlie Palmer Steak in DC. The wine director Nadine Brown, encouraged me to describe the flavors and aromas of wines she randomly poured in a glass. Little by little I joined a tasting group and shortly after I found out about the Court of Master Sommelier which I joined. David Denton and Maria Denton were the ones who guided me through that section of my career and later on I met Malia Milstead who gave me the opportunity to work as  Sommelier in 2 restaurant concepts she had leadership on.

What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?

I believe a someone should be called a Sommelier when acquiring the experience equivalent to a Master Sommelier certification. A Sommelier is a leader and educator in the hospitality industry, someone that delivers trust and confidence in the work environment. I met many people I admire in my career but I exceptionally admire Keith Goldstein and Fred Dexheimer both the kind of Master Sommelier one day I would love to be.

What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?

Best advice: take your head out of your ass. It is not that hard to be humble and helpful if you try from the beginning.

The best way is to work part time for free at different restaurant concepts and specially where you can take a lead on cellar management.


When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?

Listen to them and deliver what they are asking. It sounds simple but it is more complicated than that. Never suggest a wine that you like just because you like it.

What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?

If you can have the right glass for every wine you are working in a very luxurious place. In real life, most restaurants do not have the budget or the time to consider this extra step. However, I like Riedel the best followed by Chef and Sommelier glassware.

What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?

2 steps: Set your intention in the pairing whether is contrasting or pairing the food.

Wine list:

What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?

Learn your demographic. Do not just bring wines into your wine list because they are cool. At the end of the day your job is to make sure your inventory is depleted smoothly. As far as mark ups, 30% on a bottle of wine under $70 is reasonable in most big cities unless otherwise.

How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?

Magazines. Seminars.

How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?

By making great wine for a good price. Not great labels with poor wine.

Favourite pick:

If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?

Pinot Noir because it makes people very happy.

What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?

Bouchard Pere et Fils, Chateau Giscours and Lewis Cellars. I cannot have wine at home because I drink it too fast. Dessert wine: Anton Bauer Riesling Ice Wine.

Cesar Varela

@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions –

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