Congratulations to Benjamin S. Coutts, Beverage Director of One MICHELIN Star Soseki and the 2023 MICHELIN Guide Florida Sommelier Award Winner presented in partnership with Wine Access! With an intimate vibe, moody lighting, and a laser focus on local Florida produce, this omakase spot is the perfect marriage of complexity and creativity. Below, we chat with Coutts on the best pairings, all about decanting, and his favorite wine flicks.
What are you drinking these days?
I find texture an attractive and important characteristic in wine and sake, and I am reintroducing myself to Alsatian wines. Yamahai and bodaimoto brewed sakes are also a current obsession.
Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
The refreshingly tangy blend of cold brew coffee, coconut cream, and sparkling lemonade.
What's your ideal meal and pairing?
At Soseki we offer two beverage pairings that most guests choose to include with the experience. We guide them down the road less traveled with elements of surprise. This often means showcasing sake with most of our composed dishes and red wine, especially cru Beaujolais, with our sushi offering. It is a delight to see our guests have the ‘lightbulb’ moment on their journey with us.
My ideal experience is a simple roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and an assortment of leafy green vegetables. This is best paired with good music, family, and friends (new and old). A few bottles of aged Muscadet and chilled Brachetto wouldn’t hurt either.
What's the biggest misconception about being a sommelier, or wine in general, that you'd like to dispel?
That the role of a sommelier stops at the beverage list. A sommelier must be about hospitality, management, leadership, and mentorship. A great sommelier plays a supporting role to execute the vision of the restaurant. They are approachable, knowledgeable, and driven to create an inviting and warm environment for their guests. They are curious with a thirst for knowledge and continuous growth. After the guests have left satisfied, the real fun begins...paperwork, deliveries, mis-picks, inventory, re-prints, and polishing.
White wine shows greater aromatics and flavors when only slightly chilled. That same chill helps red wine release more texture and energy. With sake, let your tokubetsu junmai and taruzake bottlings warm throughout the evening for a more fulfilling experience.
What’s your criteria for adding a new wine to your list?
Our beverage list is dedicated to the families and farmers that have committed to sustainable practices including organic and biodynamic farming, and minimal cellar intervention. These are energetic offerings that speak of the people involved and their environment.
Favorite wine-related film, book, magazine, etc?
The documentary, Our Blood is Wine (2018), and the book, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure (2002).
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