We already know Miami is a hot zone for craft cocktails and beer. Know what else is happening? The wine scene! Follow along as I continue this blog section featuring some of South Florida’s buzziest swirlers, sniffers, and tasters.
A real made-in-Dade Miami somm with Hialeah and West Kendall sass… ya tú sabes! Her knowledge, passion and excitement over wine is contagious: the perfect definition of G E N U I N E.
Meet Amanda Fraga
Beverage Director at The Genuine Hospitality Group
What sparked your interest in wine? Sounds silly, but I had a feeling. At 18, I started UCF, and I joined the wine club. Since I was underage, I was able to join and taste the wines, but I’d have to spit every taste. Growing up, family never really drank wine. They usually drank whatever my older cousins would bring, or what was on trend, in addition to rum. In addition to an attraction I had to wine, I started traveling everywhere from China to London to Italy. I loved how each place had a special beverage, usually wine, and it was unique to that place because of climate and soil type, as well as working well with the cuisine of the place.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Being creative, and trying to come up with new ways to share wine with guests. I love it because it’s growing and I can see it. Since people have had to stay home and drink at home, I see more people trying new wines, which is exciting!
What certification/education do you have as a sommelier? Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers
What does it take to learn to sniff and taste wine properly? It was tasting with more advanced sommeliers that taught me the most. Listening to their descriptions and reasons the wine is giving those aromas and flavor profiles was the best learning experience.
What is a common wine myth you’d like dispelled? That Champagne/sparkling isn’t wine. Sparkling wines are very versatile and pair very well with different cuisines and meats! Let’s not limit ourselves because “Champagne is only to celebrate.” Recently I tried Champagne and grilled Korean short ribs. OMG amazing!
Where would you steer a person wanting to learn more about wine? My favorite intro book is Educating Peter, it’s really easy to read. If you are just starting off, reading something that is more like a story than an encyclopedia will keep you excited about the world of wine!
What is a good starter wine? Grüner Veltliner from Austria! It’s approachable in palate and price! My favorite is introducing people who usually drink Pinot Grigio to Grüner since they are both bitter grape varietals and have similar qualities. Actually, drinking one right now, from the Kamptal.
How do you feel about the current Miami wine scene overall? I love it, because it’s growing and I can see it. Only up from here.
How does Miami as a whole fare in wine knowledge when compared to other cities such as New York, Chicago, or San Francisco? Compared to New York, Chicago, and San Fran, which are more established cities, Miami needs a little more time to learn. Luckily for us, we get visitors from those cities, which push restaurants to expand their selections for that clientele, and then the Miami locals get to try something new
How do you feel about documentaries such as the Somm series driving up the interest in certifications? I’m cool with it. People want to have a goal, a goal to get that certification, so they study to reach that goal. In the process, they share their excitement of wine with others. We all win.
What do you wish every diner knew when ordering wine at a restaurant? There are standards that the server and sommelier there are trying to meet. So when they are offering you the taste to make sure it isn’t corked, just taste it. Denying it takes the same amount of time and kind of knocks that server/somm off their game.
How do you feel about corkage fees at restaurants? (Pre-pandemic) I think about corkage fees all the time. I’m not kidding, at least 3-5 times a week. As a wine drinker who also likes to collect wine, it’s tough to think that I’ll be paying $30+ to open the bottle at a restaurant when I’ve already spent money on buying and properly storing the wine. As a wine buyer, I know the business side of it: the glasses break and need to be cleaned by hourly staff in the back. Beverage is where restaurants make their margins, and at the end of the day, the restaurant is a business that employs a significant amount of people who need to get paid every two weeks. Back to me as the wine drinker, I like going out and trying wines that someone put together, trying something new, talking to the sommelier, and seeing what they are excited about.
(Now) Anything goes, trying things out to see how it works. This month (August) we are doing $0 corkage at Michael’s Genuine, the thought is to drive more people to the restaurant. Let’s see how it goes!
What wine trend do you think needs to go away? I think trends are good; they get people started in wine. My hope is that once someone gets into a wine trend, they explore outside of that.
What is on its way to becoming a trend? Canned wines, and wines easily accessible outdoors, think plastic bottles instead of glass.
How do you feel about orange wine? It’s a great wine for pairings.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I love the business side of restaurants. Hopefully, in 5 years, I will have graduated with my MBA.
I see how much Instagram influences drinkers. Right now, I’m trying to push content on my Instagram page that is true and not sponsored. Approachable wines that taste and feel good, not wines that landed on my doorstep for free.
What would customers be surprised to learn about you? About me personally? Like I love bird watching aka “birding”? Hehe What I’d love for most guests to know is that sommeliers are approachable. Especially the ones in Miami. Tell them what you are into, and even how much you want to pay. They can help introduce you to some cool things!
Anything else you’d like to add? Heard this a few times over the last few months in respect to Miami’s Food and Wine scene: ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’