Here is an interview we did with long time Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji for Wine Speak 2020.
Emmanuel Kemiji M.S. hits the trifecta when it comes to wine: master sommelier, winemaker and winery owner.
We are thrilled to welcome him to Wine Speak 2020, where he will co-host our panel discussion on “Crazy Red Blends.” You will also experience his wines at our Wines of The World and BYOB Dinner events.
Born in the United States and raised in Spain and England, Emmanuel is a graduate of the University of California at Davis. In addition to his Economics and Spanish Literature degrees, he studied Viticulture and Oenology, expanding his interest in wine and eventually leading to the formation of Miura Vineyards in 1995. Soon to follow were Almvs in 2000, Antiqv2s in 2001, and two projects in Spain – Arrels in 2003 and Clos Pissarra in 2005.
Emmanuel acted as The Ritz-Carlton Director of Wine & Spirits from 1988 to 1999, first at Laguna Niguel and then at the renowned The Dining Room in San Francisco. In 1989 Emmanuel became the twelfth American to pass the Master Sommelier exam in London, England and one of only 10 to date to pass on his first attempt.
Wine Speak co-founder and master sommelier Chuck Furuya recently caught up with Emmanuel to talk about his journey and about what wines have made their mark on him along the way:
What made you get into the wine business?
It was my uncle in Madrid (who is like a second father) and a wine fan with a nice cellar who introduced me to wine during the summer of my sophomore year in college. When I got back to start junior year, by fortuitous coincidence, I happened to be going to U.C. Davis. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a fermentation science department previously!
How did life change for you after getting the MS pin?
It opened up a host of opportunities starting at the very place I worked—The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. I got a call from the corporate food & beverage director who wanted me to assist him in selecting the Ritz-Carlton house wines and embark on a host of other projects for the company. I became the go-to wine person for the Ritz-Carlton, which expanded into many other opportunities including starting up my own winery.
How are you able to find balance in managing everything?
Mostly because I have a lot of other interests that have nothing to do with wine: scuba diving, golf, stamp collecting, art, antique royal documents…
We are so excited and thankful that you will be sharing your wines and insights on your Clos Pissarra project in Spain. What drove you to take that on, in addition to all that you do in California?
After I got Miura going in California, I wanted to do a project in Spain to honor my heritage and my uncle.
What is Priorat at its best?
A bold wine that speaks of a singular place.
What is Montsant at its best?
A more modern version of the above at a more reasonable price.
What California wines have you tasted over the years that were truly memorable and why?
Stony Hill Chardonnay for its incredible longevity. Louis Martini Cabernets from the 1960s for how well balanced they were.
Which Spanish wine and why?
Vega Sicilia for its complexity and uniqueness.
How about a few wines from throughout the world and why?
Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo because wines aren’t made like that anymore. The Burgundies of Henri Jayer for how beautiful and profound they are. The Pouilly Fumes of Didier Dagueneau for their sense of place.
Lastly, what sommeliers have been inspiring to you and why?
Fred Dame for everything he has done for all master sommeliers. Rene Chazottes, because the old French guy taught me all about service.