Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Orlando. Wine Enthusiast named Orlando among 2015's top 10 wine destinations in the world, Wine Spectator's 2015 Restaurant Wine List Awards included 44 Orlando-area restaurants, and three masterlevel sommeliers work in Orlando. One of the city's newest, Jill Davis, 28, is one of Wine Enthusiast's top 40 sommeliers under 40 in the country. We caught up with Davis, now with Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House, to talk wine.
How did you get to Orlando?
I had been in Mendoza—I had lived in Argentina when I was 19 for a study-abroad program— and when I graduated, I thought it would be nice to live in a wine region for a little bit and get to know the wines really well. I speak French and Spanish, so I reached out to a tourism agency down in Mendoza and offered to help with a wine-tour program. After about a year living there, and for family reasons, I wanted to live back in the U.S., so I wound up getting a job with a wine importer in Orlando and then moved on to the Four Seasons.
You went from managing a 300-bottle wine list at the Four Seasons to 1,200 bottles at Del Frisco's. What's that like?
It's so crazy. It blew my mind. When a guest comes in and tells me what kind of wine they like and what style they like, I really do have at my disposal so many options at any given price point. For me, personally, it's the most rewarding part of my job: matching a wine to someone's palate, to figure out what somebody likes and be able to find a wine that perfectly fits what they're looking for and get that ahha moment in their eyes. It doesn't matter to me if it's a $70 or a $1,000 bottle. As long as they're happy, I'm happy.
What are your tips for selecting a bottle for an everyday dinner at home?
I would personally recommend a local wine shop with somebody in it who can get to know your palate and figure out your style like a fun puzzle—do you like fruit-driven wines; do you like earth-driven wines; do you like a bigger red; do you like lighter reds? Once you get that person to learn your style, they're going to show you a lot more wines that are fitting in that style in whatever price point you want as well.
And what about choosing a bottle as a gift for someone ?
You have to choose a crowd-pleasing wine. Usually in the U.S., going with a Cabernet or a Chardonnay, or even a Pinot Noir, is a safe bet. And I hate to say it, but it's so true, packaging really does make a difference when it's a gift.
What is the best way to get a bottle of wine home from a trip?
I have some wine bags that are meant for traveling in suitcases that I take with me everywhere. They actually seal shut and then velcro, and they're made with a permanent bubble wrap so they don't break in your bag. I'm sure there's a way to ship it, but I usually just bring it home with me.