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Sommelier Secrets USA: Sahar Gharai

This edition of Sommelier Secrets takes us to America where we meet Sahar Gharai, owner and wine director of La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge in Petaluma, California.

Having studied and worked in Italy, Sahar’s inspiration for the restaurant name came from her love of the country’s culture. The focus at La Dolce Vita is on small plates, sharing platters and appetisers made by Sahar’s mother, the head chef.

‘As we are located in a smaller suburb of San Francisco we mainly have a local clientele. They are very knowledgeable about wine and enjoy tasting wines from around the world but, as we are also the gateway to wine country and part of the Petaluma GAP AVA, we have a lot of tourists that stay in Petaluma on their way to visit Sonoma County.

‘As such we stock many local wines but also carry international wines from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.

‘Here in California, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon will never go out of style, but we do offer nine wine flights and 40 wines by the glass (both 3oz and 6oz) so that customers can taste a variety of wines. This includes wines on our separate Coravin list – such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, SuperTuscans, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

‘At home as I have more of an Old World palate, I mainly drink Pinot Noir, Italian reds and crisp, mineral driven white wines, but I recently took a trip to Portugal and was really impressed. I want to include more Portuguese wines on my list, I think they are phenomenal value for the quality.’

Top tip:

‘It’s a common myth that you can’t pair red wine with fish but a Pinot Noir or Gamay can pair perfectly well with some types, such as salmon.’


‘The first day that I opened La Dolce Vita, I was extremely nervous and as I was presenting a red wine flight to a customer I spilled red wine all over her white pants.’

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Sommelier Secrets UK: Dominic Smith

Sommelier Secrets Germany: Andy Benn

Sommelier Secrets Singapore: Lucas Liu

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