Kristen's Corner : An Interview with Louisa Clark of Arcana

Today is the best day because I have been blessed with ALL of the amazing wine info from Louisa Clark, Arcana’s events coordinator and certified sommelier. I am so excited to share her knowledge with you all because wine is one of my favorite things. Also, if you are in Colorado and haven’t been to Arcana yet you are seriously missing out! Thank you so much Luisa!

photo credit | Peter McEwen | @petermcewen

How did you get into wine?

“I became super interested in wine after I had worked in the restaurant industry for about 4 years. I worked at the Kitchen Boulder starting in 2012 as a server and bartender. At the time, the Kitchen was known for their amazing beer list which I got to know and loved learning about. As a bartender, I learned so much about the world of spirits and cocktails. Then I was offered a new position helping to open and manage Arcana Restaurant in Boulder which opened in February of 2016. With my new job, I wanted to round out the rest of my beverage knowledge and I felt like the place that I knew the least was wine.”

How far along are you in your training? How long did you study for?

“I am very fortunate to have an amazing mentor and GM at Arcana, Mike Elmore. Mike started studying wine in 2011 and is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. When I expressed that I wanted to learn more about wine, Mike suggested I sign up for the Introductory Course through the Court of Master Sommeliers. The Court is an organization that facilitates growth within the world of beverage professionals through classes, mentorship, and exams. There are four levels to the Court: Intro, Certified, Advanced, and finally Master Sommelier. There are only about 250 Master Somms in the world to give you an idea of how vigorous the exam process is.

So in the summer of 2016 I took the two day Introductory Course and passed the 1st level exam. The 2nd level, which is called the Certified Sommelier Examination, much more difficult that the first. Whereas the intro level gives you a two day course before you take an all multiple choice test, the Certified is only an exam and you are expected to do all the preparation on your own with no formal classes. The Certified Exam also consists of 3 parts: blind tasting, theory, and service. This was intimidating to me but I decided to move forward with the next level in March of 2017. The Certified Exam I signed up for was in mid July so I had four and a half months to study. I made a weekly schedule covering 18 different wine regions across the world and committed at least 2 hours per day for 6 days a week to studying. It was a very intense few months but the hard work paid off and I passed the Certified Exam and got the top score of the group! About 30 people sat for the test and only 10 passed and of those 10 only 3 were women. The Sommelier community is definitely male dominated so I find it inspiring to be a part of a growing community of women in the wine world.

After passing my Certified Exam I signed up for the Advanced Course. For the third level, the Court goes back to a similar structure as the first level. Each candidate is required to attend a 3 day course before even applying to take the Advanced Exam. I haven’t yet applied to take the 3rd level exam but I plan to in the next few years because I’d like a lot more time to study as the Advanced Exam is exponentially harder than the Certified. “

Favorite bottle of red + white under $20?

“I love Riesling from Dr. Basserman Jordan. Look for Trocken or Kabinett on the bottle to indicate a more dry wine. I think a lot of people are scared of Riesling because they think it will be syrupy sweet but the reality is you can find a really well balanced riesling that has bright, zippy acidity to balance out a touch of sweetness. I find Riesling to be one of the most interesting grapes because it is so aromatic with a wide range of fruit but can also be mineral driven.

Another favorite is Camino de Navaherros Bernebeleva Grenache from central Spain. This is a great well rounded red that works with a lot of different foods. It’s medium bodied with red fruit and a dry dusty earthiness that rounds it out. “

Favorite wine and food pairing?

“I love drinking high acid white wines with lean steak. For example a nice Chardonnay can be amazing with a filet. Chardonnay is known for having a bit more body than other whites and good examples can show amazing acid which helps the wine stand up to the meat. A good trick to keep in mind is “what grows together goes together” meaning if you’re eating Sicilian pizza try an Etna Rosso from the same island! Another example would be German wines go great with things like sausage and sauerkraut.”

Any tips on how to navigate a wine list? I think the average wine drinker is often intimidated by a restaurant wine list. 

“My biggest suggestion would be to ask for help! Don’t be intimidated to ask for the Somm especially if you are at a place that is known for wine. Even if you’re not, there should be at least one person at the restaurant that knows the wine list well. I would also recommend being open to trying something new! Let the Somm know what you have had in the past that you’ve liked and what you liked about it. Don’t stick just to grapes also. If there was a region you liked or something specific about a wine like nuttiness or spice let them know! Also don’t be afraid to let them know your price point right away. That way they won’t be suggesting bottles that are way out of your budget. “

Where is your favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine? (Besides Arcana of course!)

“Other great spots for wine in Boulder are the wine bar PMG, Corrida which has an all Spanish wine program, and Basta.”

Underrated wine that the average wine drinker wouldn’t know about?

“If you like Sauvignon Blanc, check out Muscadet made from the grape called Melon de Bourgogne. It comes from the Western Loire Valley on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in France and has similar salty, green, and crisp qualities.

If you love French Chardonnay check out Aligoté. It’s the only other white grape that can be produced in Burgundy and can provide great value in that region!

If you love fuller bodied red wines like Cabernet, try a Tempranillo from Spain. These wines are typically aged in oak and have lovely darker fruit and richness.”

Favorite thing on the menu at Arcana?

“My favorite dish on the menu is our Lamb Chop. We source our lamb from Crego Land and Livestock in Fort Collins and it is some of the best Colorado lamb out there! We roast the lamb chop and then baste it in a pan with butter and aromatics to order. It is served with rolled Lamb Belly that we marinate in black garlic to give it a rich, earthy, umani flavor. Also on the plate are some amazing fat fried Yukon Gold potatoes, roasted green chiles and onions, and what we call a Troutchovy dressing. Troutchovies are something we make in house from the trimmings of our Colorado Trout (which we butcher whole) and cured like you would an anchovy. The dressing is a take on a classic anchoyade or French dressing made with anchovies. It adds a nice brightness to the dish and balances out the richness.”

FOLLOW LUISA & ARCANA

Dinner (Tuesday-Saturday 5-10/ Sunday-Monday 5-9)

Brunch (Saturday & Sunday 10-2:30)

Happy Hour (Daily 4-6)