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Sarah Cyr, Sommelier at The Wine Cellar & Bistro in Columbia, Missouri

September 27th, 2011

When Norm and I visited Columbia, Missouri, we discovered The Wine Cellar & Bistro. What a find!  In addition to a wonderful chef, Craig Syr, it is co-owned by an equally talented Sommelier, Sarah Cyr. This small, intimate establishment has grown to be a successful highly recommended destination for memorable experiences.

Interviewing and sharing Sarah’s story revealed a road to success and happiness.

Maralyn: Sarah, how did you decide to become a Sommelier?

Sarah: I started working in restaurants while finishing law school, so I could see my fiancé at the time. We were both so busy and loved working together in whatever restaurant Craig was currently employed. I soon became a server manager at a fine dining restaurant, and helped them receive a Wine Spectator award for their wine list (the same award we, The Wine Cellar & Bistro, has received every year since we opened in 2003).

Organizing and learning about putting together an award winning list was where I got started learning to love the vast subject of wine. I have never stopped.

Since opening The Wine Cellar & Bistro, I have been certified as a first-level Sommelier by The Court of Master Sommeliers, and plan on continuing my sommelier training. I blind taste every Wednesday with my distributors and take extensive notes on every wine I taste.

Maralyn: Do you offer tasting notes?

Sarah: I personally stand behind the wines I put on the list, and offer tasting notes and food pairings (provided by Craig) on a label on each bottle.

Maralyn: What do you look for when you taste?

Sarah: As far as tasting wine, I always look for: Does it adequately represent the region and varietal (does the CA cab taste like an Oregon pinot? Hopefully it does not). I look for a good value (would my customers pay this price?). And is it tasty and food friendly? That’s pretty much it.

I always tell my customers to drink what they enjoy, and if they enjoy it all, then take our advice on a wine pairing to complement your meal. There is nothing better than that perfect pairing, where every drink invites another bite and every bite desires another drink. I just had that experience with a 10-year old merlot and shiitake bisque. It was amazing.

Maralyn: What about aromas? I pick up some, but my palate is not developed to pick up the subtleties.

Sarah: As far as aromas go, I am still working on that. It is such an important part of tasting because so much of what you taste is impacted by what you smell. Every time I smell a wine, I am amazed at the variety of aromas and how they change as the wine breathes. You can only start recognizing these aromas by trying to identify what you smell, over and over again. Pretty soon, you go from smelling cherries or strawberries to smelling tobacco leaves and juniper. It is subjective, but those aromas are really there.

Maralyn: What do you suggest to improve one’s tasting skills?

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Local Chestnut Housemade Ravioli with Local Red Wine Oxtail Broth

Sarah: I highly recommend blind tasting wine, just pouring it in the glass, taking notes on its color, aromas, and flavors. Once you describe the wine, then allow yourself to discover what it is, what grape, from where, and what price point. This is the most effective way to learn. Pretty soon, you will notice similarities between the same varietals (all sauvignon blancs have grapefruit notes) and even some regions.

Maralyn: Sarah, you obviously are willing to share developing wine appreciation skills, thank you.

Sarah: I hope it helps! I love learning and teaching about wine. Since I do not practice law, wine has always been my passion and satisfies my craving to continually educate myself. I love it! The more you know about wine, the more you realize there is to know!

Maralyn: Could you pair some of Craig’s dishes with wine for our readers to see examples?

Sarah: I’d be happy to do that.

Sea bass needs a gently oaked CA chardonnay to pair with the fish, squash, and nice banana flavors (sometimes CA chardonnays will have their own banana aromas). It makes a great pairing.

With fondue, I usually recommend a glass of bubbly. We have a cremant by the glass that is nice with the fondue, the yeastiness pairs nice with the marshmallows, while the bubbles can bounce back and forth between the sweetness of the chocolate and the variety of flavors from the fruits. Or our local winery’s port would be nice as well (Adam Puchta, Hermann, MO).

The crepes are creamy with a sweet mango pepper salsa. They need a full bodied Oregon pinot gris or a California viognier to balance all those flavors and creaminess, while adding a lovely floral note.

Chestnut ravioli is earthy and nutty, with a rich oxtail tomato sauce, I just had a Spanish Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva 1995 that would have paired perfectly. I think a big Spanish red would be wonderful.

For Lemon Semi-Freddo with Lavender Shortbread Cookies, this dessert is so delicate with flavors that a light bubbly good quality Italian moscato would do the trick. It features small elegant bubbles and is gently sweet. Now, I am hungry!

Thank you for asking! I like to share!

Maralyn: I found Sarah’s tips and wine pairing suggestions quite helpful. Her talent is evident and it is easy to see why they continue to receive the Wine Spectator Award.


The Wine Cellar & Bistro

505 Cherry Street

Columbia, Missouri 65201

(573) 442-7281

Freelance travel writer Maralyn D. Hill, The Epicurean Explorer, is President of the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association. Maralyn focuses on food, spas, travel, and wine, while still covering meetings, incentives, and corporate assignments.

Website, Blogs & Email: The Epicurean Explorer, Where and What in the World, NoraLyn, IFWTWA Profile,

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