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. Meet Daniel Alan Bishop: Fiola Miami’s Head Sommelier & Beverage Director.
Previous notable positions General manager for the Delfina Restaurant Group’s Locanda location in San Francisco (unfortunate Covid casualty). I was with the group for five years.
What sparked your interest in wine? The agriculture and farming side to the business. I grew up working part-time farming, and my parents had a big garden, so I was intrigued by it and the idea that it has been a part of history for 1000s of years. One of my mentors, Patrick, was doing a short harvest intern at a winery in Sonoma: Meeker. I went to visit him and fell in love with California. We made the decision then to sell everything we owned when we both got back to Florida and then moved out west after eight months of planning. The Meeker family allowed us to stay on their property for two months. We worked the harvest for them and then moved to San Francisco after that. It really was fate leading me to California. I really loved my experience, my almost ten years in California; it shaped and forged me as a wine professional.
What certification/education do you have as a sommelier? Court of Master Sommeliers’ Certified (retaking the Advanced in July), WSET Level 3, International Sommelier Guild Level 2, North American Sommelier Association: Italian Wine Specialist, Wine Scholar Guild-French Wine Scholar Certification.
Briefly walk us through, in your experience, what it took to learn to taste wine properly. Time and patience. I work off a deductive tasting grid and format. Once I learned that, it became easier. When I shop for groceries I smell everything to build my olfactory senses, that has been a helpful tool. If you don’t know what lavender smells like or white pepper, you may never get Syrah or Grüner Veltliner.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Tasting amazing wines and meeting great people.
Industry pet peeve? Not being open-minded about food and wine, automatically dismissing something on a preconceived notion.
What is a common wine myth you’d like dispelled? All Riesling is sweet.
Do you feel strongly about natural corks? Do synthetic and screw caps merit the same respect? Do you believe they yield the same outcome? I think this depends on the wine. I believe we will see as more and more wines are under screwcap. I like the presentation part of natural cork also.
Where would you steer a person wanting to learn more about wine? Look for local tastings and wine shops; they are a helpful tool.
What is a good starter wine? I love starting with bubbles!! I think it’s one of the most versatile beverages.
List your top favorite wine books, movies, and documentaries, and which do you recommend for beginners? I love using the Guild of Sommeliers website; the membership is indispensable. The content they offer is so deep and layered. I also use Italian Wine Central for Italian info. I use the Jancis Robinson website. The Wine Atlas book is a must. For beginners, I started with Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly.
How do you feel about documentaries such as the Somm series driving up the interest in certifications? I feel the more exposure for our industry, the more it will grow, and it also lets people see the dedication it takes to become certified or higher.
How do you feel about the current Miami wine scene overall? Coming from San Francisco was challenging. I was in one of the most amazing wine markets. My Miami experience has been full of amazing people and a great community of wine professionals, now just to get them to be open to trying wines of the world.
What do you wish every diner knew when ordering wine at a restaurant? The one topic I see here is a guest will see a wine that is light in color and presume it’s not a full-bodied wine. A Barolo may appear to be light, but it’s far from it. They see the color and dismiss it.
How do you feel about corkage fees at restaurants? We allow corkage daily (2 bottles) except Friday & Saturday nights. I like our format, but I would prefer to have only one bottle per table and allow it on Friday & Saturday too, but be strict with one bottle. Many guests have that special bottle, and I consider it an honor for them to drink it here; plus they allow me to taste them normally!
What wine trend do you think needs to go away? Canned wine isn’t my favorite, though I have some tasty ones.
What trend can you predict for 2021? I feel many people are going to stick to the comfortable familiar wines, back to the basics with what they love after a tough 2020
How do you feel about orange wine? It was popular for several years in San Francisco when I was there, here not as much, but some are great. They have unique texture and flavor profile.
How does Miami as a whole fare in wine knowledge when compared to other cities such as New York, Chicago, or San Francisco? The Miami scene is much more brand-driven, and they know those brands closely as well as they follow wine ratings closer. The other markets get a much broader and diverse selection of wines from regions around the world, but it is growing and expanding here.
Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s hard to envision this year, but I would like to do more on the winery side, either working for a winery or representing one.
What would we be surprised to learn about you? I went to culinary school and cooked for 12 years & my grandfather came from Malta.
Anything else you feel is important to add? Our industry took a big hit this year with the pandemic. I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends this coming year and meeting new ones here in Miami.
Photography by The Whet Palette