Haunah Klein is head sommelier at Boulud Sud in downtown Miami.
A University of Florida graduate, Haunah Klein is who legendary chef Daniel Boulud turns to when he needs the perfect wine to pair with his pumpkin agnolotti, octopus a la plancha or other dishes at his Boulud Sud restaurant in downtown Miami. Klein is head sommelier at the restaurant (255 Biscayne Boulevard Way) and one of the top players in Miami’s wine scene. INDULGE spoke with her about the perks and pitfalls of life as a wine expert.
A Day in the Life of a Miami Sommelier
“Generally, I work nights. So a normal day is a little backward. I ensure that all wine is stocked, the wines we are out of are noted, and the wine lists are ready for the night’s dinner service. Once or twice a week I meet with sales representatives, portfolio managers and winemakers where I taste new and diverse wine and spirits for the restaurant. When my team arrives, I communicate any concerns for the night, wines we are low on, suggested wine pairings for that night’s specials and any other relevant detail for the dinner service. When in the dining room, I encounter many people looking for various styles of dining. Some may want a guided tour where I am happy to find a great bottle to enjoy or even pair wines with their courses to fully curate their experience. Other times, guests prefer to explore on their own. My goal as the Head Sommelier is to provide the best experience possible for our guests – making the night memorable for them is ultimately the purpose of my job.”
Five Tips for Budding Wine Gurus
1. Find Your Passion. “Life would have been a lot simpler if I had grown up knowing exactly what it was I wanted to do when I got older. I always loved people and history, so I studied anthropology. I found myself in a situation not unfamiliar to most with liberal arts degrees. Where do I go from here? I considered law, business school and eventually found myself working at a restaurant and falling in lovewith food and wine. It amazed me how every day I could learn more and more about history, culture through the scope of wine and cuisine. It starts with finding the thing that you love doing and trying to figure out a way to make a career out of it.”
2. Get Involved.“Once I knew that I wanted to spend as much time as humanly possible studying and drinking wine, I knew that I eventually wanted to find a way to continue to do this professionally. I was fortunate to find some amazing beverage professionals that showed me various ways I could make a career out of my love for wine. The best place to start has always been through people. Along the way I have had amazing mentors, study buddies and friends that have taught me more about the world of wine and restaurants than I could have ever learned from a book. Finding a person that is willing to invest in you might mean a lot of hard work (and at times very little monetary compensation) but it is hands-down the best way to get your foot in the door.”
3. Show Commitment. “My day-to-day job isn’t the easiest or most glamorous. The job requires a lot of heavy lifting. It can at times be arduous and stressful. But for me, the amazingly rewarding benefits vastly outweigh those factors. Consider every alternative and if the lifestyle is a good fit.”
4. Study. “The world of wine is a big place and it continues to grow and expand every day. There are so many factors that go in to how a bottle of wine drinks. From the soil type to the vines, the winemaking techniques, yeast strains, fermentation vessels, how was the wine aged or stored and even how was the weather that year. The study of wine is the study of modern day, but also of history. I started with the basics. Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible was crucial. I studied breadth for the first few years, familiarizing myself with regions, grapes, and climates. As I become more familiar with each region, I can expand upon my answers in response to guests’ questions.”
5. Practice! “The best way to learn about wine is to taste wine. I can have someone describe a wine to me or read tasting notes all day, but I won’t truly know the wine until I experience it. The flavor, the texture, the way your palate reacts to the structure of the wine itself. Tasting and traveling is the best possible way to hone my craft. I generally find learning works better for me when I can taste a wine in the place that it comes from. Drinking a glass of wine when you can see the vineyards that it came from and being surrounded by the geography and culture that made that wine is truly the best way to understand.”
There was a moment, a few months back, when a petite woman with fashionably short-cropped hair and signature boxy librarian glasses just downright astonished her coworkers. She had been working full-time at Los Angeles furniture store, HDButtercup. She had a degree in art, a passion for the work and a deep knowledge of midcentury-modern design. But admittedly, she “kind of sucked at selling.”