Sommelier Scoop – Q&A with our Advanced Sommeliers

“They say there’s a perfect wine for every meal. We believe that works both ways.”


In a city filled with lauded chefs and noted restaurants, it’s easy to believe that the cuisine in Charleston reigns supreme. But any good restaurateur will tell you that exceptional food is only part of the equation. At Charleston Grill, the Forbes Four Star restaurant located inside Belmond Charleston Place hotel, the 1,300 label wine program stands on its own, continuously awarded Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence”.

We recently sat down with our Advanced Sommeliers’ Rick Rubel, Andrew Marshall and Femi Oyediran, to learn more about the world of wine. Of seven Advanced Sommeliers in the state of South Carolina, six reside in Charleston, and three call Charleston Grill home. We are in good hands.


What would be your bucket list wine to celebrate a special occasion?

Rubel: Well this is a dream “bucket list”, right? It would have to be the 1975 Bollinger Blanc de Noirs “Vieilles Vignes Francaises (Champagne). I tasted this wine at a seminar 20 years ago and it haunts me to this day. I recently saw a bottle sell for about $3,000 in the UK.

Marshall: You can’t go wrong with a classic and the 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild is considered by many to be the wine of the vintage and a spectacular wine. The history alone is enough to make me search out this $10,000 bottle of wine that was used to celebrate the end of World War II.

What is your favorite off the beaten path wine region?

Rubel: This may come as a surprise but Michigan. It’s where I began studying wine, and the region features many stunners from sparkling to elegant reds to some of our country’s best Rieslings.

Oyediran: I’m beginning to bring Finger Lakes, NY into the domestic conversation. While there are some fantastic Rieslings in the area, I recently tasted Pinor Noir and Syrah from Element Winery, which has made me want to explore this region more.

What wine would you pair with your favorite dish at Charleston Grill?

Marshall: I’m a sucker for all things sweet and Chef Michelle’s Foie Gras with bourbon-maple peaches is one of those dishes that makes you believe in a higher being. I love the classic pairing with botrytized or naturally sweet wines like Hungary’s Tokaji Aszú.

Rubel: Currently, my favorite combination is the Crispy Sweetbreads paired with Sadie Family’s Palladius 2013. The sweetbreads are a play on veal piccata which pairs perfectly with this South African white wine in weight and acidity.

Oyediran: I’m partial to the Snapper dish, plated over Fregola Sarda with red wine reduction and a foray of wild mushrooms. A Beaujolais like Thibault Liger Belair’s Moulin-a-Vent “La Roche” is graceful and aromatically intoxicating.

Which wine would you pair for a picnic in historic downtown Charleston?

Rubel: A dry, still Rosé that has enough “cut” or acidity to cool our summer heat like Paul Thomas’s Sancerre Rosé made 100% Pinot Noir. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Marshall: A well chilled bottle of Champagne. I will take bubbles in just about any form but Champagne is king.

Oyediran: I’m picking bubbles too. One that I love right now is Caraccioli Cellars Brut Rosé from Santa Lucia Highlands. It’s fresh, vibrant and just incredibly delicious.

What wine and food pairing have you recommended that were surprising to guests but really work?

Rubel: I can almost hear the “no sweet wines” plea as I approach tables with a German Riesling but a dollop of residual sugar pairs perfectly with spicy and sweet seafood dishes like Chef’s Catfish Country Captain Stew.

Oyediran: I think Madeira is always surprising as a wine pairing but it’s great with our Crème Brulee, not only because of the wine’s historic relationship with Charleston but because the harmony created between the mutual caramelized flavors is a great way to end a phenomenal dinner.

What are your 3 personal wine cellar must haves?

Rubel: Can I say Champagne, Burgundy and wines from the Rhône Valley? Or is that completely cheating? How about Vintage Champagne, German Riesling and Northern Rhône Reds? Wow, that hurts to leave off Red Burgundy. Ask me tomorrow, and I bet my answer is different.

Marshall: Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône. In that order and any other order.

Oyediran: I’ll try to be diplomatic here. A Great Chardonnay from Burgundy because those wines are majestic as they age, an ‘old-school’ Napa Cabernet like Inglenook from the 1970s, and lastly a vintage port because after all of those you’re going to want something you can just sip and contemplate with.

What wine, region, varietal, or wine maker is the “one to watch” or your “favorite” and why?

Rubel: Bordeaux. The region has it all; legendary white, red and dessert wine. Some of the most famous wines on the planet with prices to match come from this region but it also has a treasure trove of good values. I hope consumers will rediscover rich Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominated reds, its elegant “Clarets”, sophisticated barrel fermented whites, crisp whites or excellent dessert wines. Too many great wines to ignore.

Marshall: Canada, and more specifically, British Columbia and Ontario, are producing beautiful examples of Icewine from the world’s most northerly wine regions.

Oyediran: Whether it be the graceful reds of Cerasuolo di Vittoria or of Etna, I think Sicily is producing very intriguing wines that deserve to be included in the dining room.


Next time you find yourself overwhelmed by the options on a restaurant’s wine list or at the grocery store, know you can’t go wrong with one of the suggestions above. Or, as Oyediran says “trust your server and ask questions.” Stop in soon and say hello to Rick, Andrew and Femi, who can be found at the Charleston Grill nightly.

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An Exclusive Peek at Charleston Grill’s Wine Cellar



Nestled off of the lobby of Belmond Charleston Place, Charleston Grill is often praised for its decadent menu items and carefully curated ambiance. However, what many do not get to see is the restaurant’s exclusive wine cellar, which is comprised of six separate storage cellars and holds more than 10,000 bottles of wine purchased from every edge of the world. From Colgin IX Estate Red from Napa Valley, California to Château de Beaucastle’s red blends from Chateaunneuf-du-Pape in Rhone, France and Australia’s Penfold Grange, Charleston Grill’s vast collection truly contains the crème de la crème.

The wine list contains more than 1,300 different selections, many of which can be found in small cellars near the Grill, where two to four bottles of each wine are typically chilled and readily available. Many more bottles are held in a larger wine cellar located in-house, where each bottle is meticulously stored at 55 degrees. For organizational purposes, each wine has a bin number, which can be found on the menu as well.

For a closer look at the extensive wine cellar, Wine Director and Advanced Sommelier Rick Rubel gave us just a few samplings from their list of legendary wines.


Sparkling White

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Jacques Selosse “Substance” Champagne

Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or you simply appreciate how well sparkling compliments a meal, champagne is the perfect addition to an evening of dining at Charleston Grill. One of our favorites is Jacques Selosse “Substance”. This extremely rare, 100% Chardonnay, multi vintage blend combines brightness and intensity with youth, depth and richness of age to make a truly spectacular cuvée.



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2007 Albert Boxler Riesling Sommerberg, Grand Cru

For a taste that is equally rich and exotic, opt for our 2007 Albert Boxler Sommerberg Riesling. This lush white wine comes from the Grand Cru Sommerberg vineyard in Alsace, France. Its lush and refreshing taste pairs nicely with fish, pork and chicken dishes.



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2011 Dominio de Pingus

If you’re in the mood for a burst of unique flavor, opt for our 2011 Dominio de Pingus. This bold red wine originates from Ribera del Duero in Northern Spain and is comprised of Tempranillo, a grape variety that is found at the core of some of the finest red wines in Spain. The palate of this young red wine is both eccentric and flavorful and would perfectly compliment any red meat or pork dish.

Want to learn more? Come into the Charleston Grill and ask any of their knowledgable and friendly servers, one of their eight Sommeliers or strike up a conversation with either of their Advanced Sommeliers. You can also check out their full wine list here. Cheers!


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Holy Ice Cream!

Here in the Holy City, we are fortunate for countless joys that Charleston provides. One of our favorites is the extended summer season. Just because school is back in session and fall months are approaching doesn’t mean that long, sun-shiny days and weekend beach trips are over just yet. And what’s the best way to cool off while beating the heat in Charleston? ICE CREAM! Enjoy these last weeks of summer by walking around the historic downtown with a good ‘ole fashioned ice cream cone in your hand.

Jeni’s King Street
Located in a lively, up and coming area of King Street, you are sure to be blown away by Jeni’s exotic flavors. A standard cup or homemade cone comes with two flavors and the shop encourages tasting. Try sampling the ‘Wildberry Lavender’ or the ‘Goat Cheese with Red Cherries.’ Or just stick with the ‘Milkiest Chocolate in the World’ flavor to be safe.

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Godiva Chocolate
Just down the West Gallery hallway of the hotel, chocolate heaven awaits you. Dive into Godiva’s soft serve ice cream consisting of flavors made with real Godiva Chocolate. White Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Dark Chocolate and Swirl can be served in a cup or their classic crunchy Belgian Waffle cone. If you dare, have the cone rimmed with melted milk or dark chocolate and praline almonds.



Charleston’s newest gelato shop has officially opened on King Street directly across from the hotel. All the way from Argentina, Freddo specializes in only using natural and raw ingredients to prepare a 100% artisanal product. Enjoy four exclusive flavors just in Charleston: Italian Mascarpone, Irish Cream, Chocolate Mousse, and Dulce De Leche.



This dessert café is tucked into the heart of the City Market just out the doors of the hotel. Sit inside at a romantic table and indulge in homemade milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and even dessert Martinis. Certainly something for everyone at Kaminsky’s!



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