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New Sommmelier at Addison

Grand Del Mar recruits Elizabeth Huettinger

By Troy Johnson

New Sommmelier at Addison

Elizabeth Huettinger

Elizabeth Huettinger

These shoes are real big. I’d say clown-like, but there was nothing clownish about Jesse Rodriguez. The star sommelier of Grand Del Mar (and French Laundry before that) left the resort and its world-class, 37,000-bottle wine collection in March to join Montage Laguna Beach. The Grand Del Mar is a sommelier farm, with over two dozen certified somms on staff.  But management went external to replace Rodriquez, snagging Spago’s assistant wine director Elizabeth Huettinger. She worked directly with Master Sommelier Christopher Miller to close, renovate and reopen Wolfgang Puck’s iconic restaurant.

Within minutes of the announcement, Ted Glennon—one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2012—reached out to give Huettinger a ringing endorsement. Others volunteered unsolicited praise. Apparently Huettinger has some serious fans.

So, time to get a little perspective from the certified sommelier, closeted jazz singer, appreciator of San Diego’s finer Mexican joints, former sommelier at beloved SD restaurant Cavaillon, and the new master of wine ceremonies at SD’s world-classiest joint.

Why wine? Why not accounting—a nice, responsible, soul-crushing job?

I actually like to think of myself as an oddly skilled librarian or art curator; just wine and spirits instead of books. If I wasn’t doing this, I would probably still be singing jazz somewhere (I used to in my hometown). I sing in the cellar a fair amount, when absolutely no one is around.

Biggest wine thrill?

Coolest wine thrill in recent memory: Going to dinner with five Master Sommeliers. I don’t usually get star struck, but last summer my former boss and truly amazing mentor Christopher Miller was teaching a course with a few other Master Somms and I picked them up and drove them to dinner. I was lucky enough to tag along, let alone share drinks with them and listen to their conversation—fascinating.

What wines do you like right now?

I’m currently hooked on the Sadie Family wines from South Africa, especially their Grenache called “Soldaat” and Cinsault called “Pofadder.” These wines will absolutely change your opinion of South Africa. On the domestic side, Tatomer out of Santa Barbara is making stellar Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

Is your home fridge full of Screaming Eagle and Scarecrow?

My home cellar mainly consists of: Riesling, more Riesling, Southern France, Champagne/Sparkling, and Burgundy.

Why did Cavaillon die?

I was both surprised and saddened to see Cavaillon close. I left about six months before that so I can’t speak to the specifics. Restaurants are risky and volatile; it’s hard to nail down a specific reason why.

Addison chef William Bradley says you break convention. How so?

At the end of the day it has to work and be delicious. Some people so strange pairings just to be different; but sometimes the traditional pairings are amazing and classic for a reason. I will say that I do like to take it beyond wine, and experiment with beer, Sherry, Sake, cocktails and other various spirits, as well as non-alcoholic beverages. Being a Sommelier is about all beverages, not just wine, so I try to bring that into the pairing side as well.

Why the Grand Del Mar? World-classiness? Bradley’s food? You want to usher in a new era of line-dancing at Club M?

Who told you about my closet line-dancing skills? Well, the cat’s out of the bag now! It was a combination of things, really. A passionate chef with amazing food, an amazing team dedicated to great service, and obviously an incredible cellar to grow with and make my own.

The resort expects extreme care and attention to detail from staff. I’ve heard chefs are water-boarded if they talk in Bradley’s kitchen. Nervous at all?

Well, I wasn’t nervous before, but now that you put it that way…. Truthfully, I find most serious restaurants are that way. High standards yield high results.

You’ve lived here before. Favorite haunts?

My favorite S.D. spots: Carnitas Snack Shack is a great spot. Their triple pork sandwich is ridiculously good. Super Cocina, even though I can barely read the menu, which is entirely in Spanish. I ask for help every time I go, they are nice enough to give samples.

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