MICHELIN Guide Ceremony 2 minutes 07 November 2023

Sarah Thompson of Queen's English is the MICHELIN Guide Washington, D.C. 2023 Sommelier Award Winner

The co-owner and sommelier details her relationship with wine, her favorite alcohol free elixir, and her perfect pairing.

Washington D.C. wine Bib Gourmand Sommelier Award Editor's Pick

Congratulations to Sarah Thompson of Bib Gourmand Queen's English, the MICHELIN Guide Washington, D.C. 2023 Sommelier of the Year Award Winner, sponsored by Wine Access!

Starting her gastronomic journey at the age of 15, Thompson's interest in wine stemmed from her father's career in agriculture and her curiosity in how farming affects the finished wine. From there, the award winner ventured on to classic winemakers and beloved classics, to now older vintages and unusual grape varieties. 

Below, we sat down with the co-owner on her criteria for adding new wines, ideal meal pairings, and everything in between. Cheers!

How were you introduced to the world of wine?

I've been working in restaurants since I was 15. Working in so many restaurants is what me exposed to wine. My father works in agriculture (soil science to be specific), so I've always been interested in how farming and specific terroir affects a finished wine.

How has your relationship with wine changed?

In the beginnings of my wine journey, I was drawn to well known winemakers and the beloved classics: the cab francs from Loire, the occasional splurge on a bottle of fantastic Barolo, or a mineral driven, high acid German riesling. In a way, I was training my palate to really know and be able to recognize how these standards should present in a glass and how to pair them with a meal.

My relationship with wine now is much different. When dining out, I'm always shopping for older vintages, grapes vinified in unusual ways, or blends of grapes that I've never had before. I do love the classics and sometimes that's exactly what I crave, but if I have the opportunity to drink a 20 year old Hungarian Háslevelü vinified dry and tastes like coconuts with lime zest, then that's what I'm ordering!

What are you drinking these days?

Skin contact Pinot Grigio Ramatos from Friuli (perfect for the summer to fall transition). I also have a weakness for older Chenins from Savennières.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Fresh carrot juice and black coffee, but separately of course.

What’s your ideal meal and pairing?

My favorite meal is when my chef-husband cooks a feast of many different things on our weekend: steak, roasted fish, lobster, and vegetables from the farmers market.

Despite working in a restaurant, we don't get to eat much during the week.  That's why our weekends are devoted to eating. With so many different flavors going on in one meal, we love to Coravin 5-6 bottles of wine just to try a little of each with different bites of food. This keeps things fun and allows us to bring some of our favorite wines to the restaurant later on in the week to share with the staff (and yes a lot of these wines end up on the menu!).

Albert Ting/Queen's English
Albert Ting/Queen's English

What’s the biggest misconception about being a sommelier, or wine in general?

To really appreciate a wine for what it is, knowing the wine maker behind the wine is very important. The stylistic approach of a maker can really explain what to expect in the bottle before even drinking it. Many times, knowing the winemaker and the style in which they treat and farm the grape is more valuable than simply ordering a wine because you like the specific grape. 

What’s your criteria for adding a new wine to your list?

All of our wines involve hand picked grapes, minimal intervention in the vineyard + cellar, all indigenous yeasts, no added sulphur or very little sulphur added at bottling just to keep the wine stable for transport, no chemicals in the vineyard. Alot of these wines end up being from very small family wineries and producers who we love supporting.

At Queen's English we love to have fun with our wine selection and our staff is big into the education aspect behind each of the wines and loves a fun and memorable story that we can share with our guests.

Favorite wine-related film, book, magazine, etc?

Honestly, I love the staff training guides on GuildSomm. When I'm this passionate about a subject, I just want to absorb knowledge and be able to teach it clearly. I also love Windows on the World Wine Book Complete Wine Course—it's a wealth of history on regions and grapes!

Albert Ting/Queen's English
Albert Ting/Queen's English

Hero image: Courtesy of Queen's English

MICHELIN Guide Ceremony

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