“It cost $39.99 at the time, and that’s a big deal when you’re young,” says Proctor, who is the Penfolds Winemaking Ambassador (which sounds like the greatest job ever). “I knew nothing about the wine. But I put the bottle over my arm to show it to her. I was clueless.”
Proctor is clueless no longer. The sommelier — who was one of the brave souls taking the master sommelier test in the documentary film Somm — is in town for an event Wednesday at Wine by the Bay to introduce Miamians to some of the best wines Penfolds has to offer. The wines — which will include Penfolds Grange 2009, which Proctor calls “iconic” — will be paired with bites created by Chef Daniele Cosmo of CielGourmet.
Proctor, who lives in Napa Valley, came to the industry in an unusual fashion: At 21, he spotted a sommelier in a nice restaurant and thought: That’s who I want to be.
“I wish I could say I was born and raised among the vineyards,” he says, laughing, “but I can’t.”
Ask him for a recommendation, and he could talk engagingly all day about grapes and varietals and just about anything vineyard-related.
“Absolutely the best thing about being the face of Penfolds is the ability to engage so many different people in so many different states and cities and countries,” he says. “That’s the beauty of it — I can talk to everyone and give them some of me.”
Even with so many wines at his disposal, he’s got a favorite: Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon.
“We make some of the most majestic cabernets in the world,” he says.
Tasters at Wine by the Bay won’t get a chance to try that one, but there will be plenty of other notable wines, such as St. Henri Shiraz 2010.
For Miami palates looking for lighter wines in the hot weather, Proctor has a couple of suggestions, both of which will be available at the event. He likes the Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling (“dry, very crisp, citrusy, with lemon, lime and Granny Smith apple — it’s zesty, so fresh and fun”).
And chardonnay lovers don’t have to be embarrassed by their preference; Proctor recommends the Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay ( “You will love it!”)
Proctor hasn’t yet passed the grueling master sommelier exam — he’s one step away at the third level, advanced — but he hasn’t given up. Most sommeliers have to take the exam more than once, and he’ll be giving it another shot next year. He has passed two of the three parts — service and theory — and only needs to pass the tasting portion, widely considered to be the most difficult part. Would-be masters must successfully complete a blind tasting of three red and three white wines.
“I’ve been driven past the mad phase,” Proctor says cheerfully. “I’m past crazy. But it’s incredible. The thing about tasting is I don’t really know if it’s my downfall. I’ve always been considered a decent taster. But it’s all about giving the judges the information on their checklists. You have to be very disciplined.”
Meet D’Lynn Proctor from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Wine by the Bay, 888 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 112, Miami; $95; 305-455-9791 or www.localwineevents.com.