Meet Rajat Parr, author, sommelier, wine-maker and restaurateur

Rajat Parr

Rajat Parr credits his uncle in London for introducing him to fine wines. That was over 20 years ago. Now at 45, the San Francisco-based Parr is an authority on wines and wine-making. “Rajat’s profound knowledge of wines, enduring relationships with producers and renowned tasting abilities have made him a legend in the industry,” his website says.

Parr, who began his wine career as a sommelier, is now as a producer in the Santa Rita Hills of California and the Willamette Valley of Oregon. He has won three James Beard awards, including recognition as an author and as an outstanding service professional in the drinks space, among other accolades.

With such an extensive knowledge about wines, it comes as no surprise that Parr chose to share his knowledge through books. In 2010 he wrote “Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals.” His second book — “The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe” - co-written with Jordan Mackay is among the New York Times’ Best Wine Books of 2018.

In its review of the book, the Times says, the authors address questions like “why does this wine taste this way and that one, made from the same grapes a mile away, taste entirely different?” For their research, Times says, “the authors visited some of the great wine regions of Europe and posed the question directly to vignerons, the people who grow the grapes and make the wines.” The vignerons in turn shared their observations, “born of generations of experience with particular terroirs,” and Parr and Mackay “added their own detailed perceptions about the wines.”

Each section of the book concludes with a short list of producers recommended by Parr. “These lists would have been more useful had they included more up-and-comers and fewer choices like Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Raveneau, which are universally acknowledged to be great and exorbitantly expensive,” the Times says.

Parr, who grew up in Kolkata, entered the industry after his bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration, and joined the Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. Though food was Rajat Parr’s first love, wine became his great passion, his website says.

He began his wine career as an apprentice to Larry Stone, described as one of the industry’s most acclaimed master sommeliers, at Rubicon in San Francisco. “I worked for free for Larry for many hours before he finally made me his assistant,” Parr told SevenFiftyDaily in a 2017 interview.

After Rubicon, Parr opened San Francisco’s Fifth Floor, for which he’d built the wine program, before being named the wine director for the Mina Group. He oversaw the wine programs at the group’s flagship Michael Mina in San Francisco, as well as at each new restaurant as the group grew to more than 25 outposts throughout the world, the online magazine about the business and culture of the beverage alcohol industry says. Parr also partnered with chef Mina in opening RN74 in San Francisco, which closed down last year after an eight-year run.

During his days with The Mina Group, Parr, his website says, “traveled extensively around the world, visited the best vineyard sites and met many of the great winemakers of our time,” which cultivated a “deep understanding and appreciation of the distinctness of terrior and the vital but delicate role of winemaker.”

As he honed these skills, Parr’s interest shifted further towards winemaking. In 2011, he launched Sandhi, a partnership with Charles Banks and Sashi Moorman, to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills. In 2013, he released wines from his new estate vineyard, Domaine de la Côte, located on the westernmost edge of the Sta. Rita Hills. In early 2014, Parr took over the Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon.

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