Lady Somm Style: Shebnem Ince

Lady Somm Style: Shebnem Ince


Chi-town in the hizzy! Everyone, say hello to Chicago’s Shebnem Ince, Wine Director of Henri and The Gage, and one of Food & Wine’s Top Sommeliers of 2011. We have yet to meet, but I know that if ever we do,  she will most definitely make me laugh my ass off, paint my nails a shade of terroir and teach me a thing or two about Burgundy.

How did you become a sommelier?

“My Dad was in the wine industry and I grew up with wine all around me. Our halls were lined with Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cote-Rotie. And 1970′s vintages of Charles Heitz Martha’s. I was always obsessed with the various bottles and begged him to tell me about them all the time.”

What’s your daily uniform for work?

“Real boring. I wear the same thing every day, a black skirt, oxford blouse, black suit jacket, and black shoes with a low heel. No jewelry. Hair back (when it is long in a chignon, when it is short, with a head band). The conversation needs to be about wine so I try to appear as neutral as possible. I do sometimes write things on my hands with a sharpie marker (like a producer’s name, single vineyard I like, or vintages) just to be a punk. I do dye my hair a lot and grow it out long and then cut it. I also like wearing nail polish that corresponds to favorite terroirs; white for limestone, brown or grey for slate, blue for schiste. I have not found a good one for clay yet. Revlon TopSpeed makes some awesome colors and it dries super fast.”

Do you transition your outfit from daytime duties to nighttime floor action?

“I leave ironed shirts and my work shoes at work; I bring in stockings and the suit. I change in the ‘ family bathroom’ which is a lockable bathroom with a baby changing table and a single commode. In the internal vernacular at The Gage and Henri, it is called ‘the condo’. It is not very well-ventilated and let’s just say it is the place where all the morning BOH staff tends to go and linger with magazines after their coffees. It is a stinky, stinky little room. Sometimes I hold my breath the whole time which is hard when you are trying to get into a pair of pantyhose. I do fear that one day I will pass out in there, half-naked with a pair of pantyhose at my knees and they will have to get the fire department to break the door down with an axe.”

What are the 3 things you can’t leave home without when heading to the restaurant?

“Lip gloss, wine key, pen. I like the Uniball Vision Elite pens best but they always get stolen from me.”

Three things a somm should never do or wear?

1) Wear perfume. I know I realize this gets said a lot, but you’d be surprised at how many trade tastings you go to and people are bathed in applied scents.

2) Smoke. How the fuck can a somm smoke?

3) Wash with Gain laundry detergent and/or Bounce dryer sheets. I smell these things on clothes in elevators sometimes and feel like I am choking to death. Also, spraying Febreze is an affront to my existence, I cannot stand the smell of it. I do not believe those commercials when they lead people in to a dirty, garbage and old fish bones filled room and spray Febreze, and the people say it smells like a tropical island or a caramel candy. Bullshit!

Favorite wine on your list at Henri right now and what you usually drink at the end of a shift.

“I love Burgundy as much as one can love anything. After my shifts at Henri I go next door to our other restaurant, The Gage, and get a glass of Bourgogne Blanc, which I always have by the glass there. Right now we are pouring the Boyer Martenot 2010 and I have some Francois Carillon 2010 lined up when that runs out. If I were rich and had a house wine, it would be Freddy Mugnier‘s Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 1er Cru. It’s a perennial heartbreaker.”

Photo credit

Lady Somm Style: Shebnem Ince.  by WHITNEY on JULY 17, 2012

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