Sommelier – Your Wine Advisor

Brian Harley and a peek of the Hobbit’s cellar.

Did you ever notice a guy with that funny thing around his neck and a corkscrew in his hand? He is probably a sommelier. Top flight restaurants call for top flight service. Today’s guest Brian Harley, is the sommelier at one of Southern California premier restaurants. Since 1972, The Hobbit has been known as a unique dining experience, offering a seven-course, prix-fixe menu and of course top wines. In fact, Wine Spectator Magazine has rated it as having one of the country’s finest wine cellars.

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Show #9
(20:46 min 10 MB)

12 Responses to “Sommelier – Your Wine Advisor”

  1. 1 Greg Feb 21st, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    Nice interview Brian!

  2. 2 Graham Feb 23rd, 2005 at 10:20 am

    Good morning Cast

    Great show, it got me thinking about running off to the Sommelier school and changing my life. The show made me laugh and informed me as well, two of the more important goals af a podcast. Great work.

  3. 3 Jay Selman Feb 23rd, 2005 at 10:37 am

    Graham, thanks for the feedback. I have asked Brian to come back and tell us some stories. He has a bunch of them. Like the time he almost got into a fistfight with a customer. I can not wait to do that show. 🙂


  4. 4 Leigh Older Feb 23rd, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Man this is inspiring feedback, thanks for listening!

  5. 5 Dan Johnson Feb 25th, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    I always feel uncomfortable when I am in a restaurant if I should tip the sommelier separately. What should I do? And if so – How much?

    Thanks for a great show


  6. 6 Brian Clark Mar 3rd, 2005 at 1:04 pm


    In most cases I do not tip the sommelier separately. However, if I am asking them do something special. Such as have certain stemware set up at the table or I have a large party and want extra attention I will tip them extra in advance.

    As far as the amount, well that depends what I am asking them to do and how much time it takes them away from the other guest. In the past I have has some large dinners with over 20 people and I want the sommelier to hand around the table a lot extra I might tip them as much as $80-100. That might seem lke alot but it breaks down to only about $4-5 per person.

    Brian Clark

  7. 7 Brian Harley Mar 4th, 2005 at 11:47 am

    I think Brian Clark must be a genius because I agree 100% with his reply to tipping Sommeliers separately. Anytime you’re asking something above the “normal” scope of wine service, it’s a good thing to tip accordingly to show you care.

    Thanks to everyone for caring.

    Brian Harley,

    The Hobbit Restaurant

  8. 8 Bill Wilson Mar 22nd, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    This was a great interview and I probably learned more from this program than any of the others (which is saying quite a bit). Thanks, and keep up the great work! I hope my podcast will be as good as yours someday.

    Bill Wilson

  9. 9 John Apr 25th, 2005 at 8:31 am

    I have just recently found your pod cast and am hooked. I have listened to you cast on Sommelier’s. I wnat to learn more about the actuall process of becoming a Sommelier and starting taking wine/sommelier courses. Do you know where I should start?

    John Weippert

  10. 10 Jay Selman Apr 27th, 2005 at 7:31 am

    John, in response to your question, I would contact The Court of Master Sommeliers. Their web site is

    Jay Selman

  11. 11 Bob Sep 30th, 2005 at 10:29 pm

    I was wondering why there is such an issue with bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant? Typically a restaurant will charge a corkage fee, so that should cover their costs for stemware usage, etc. so I don’t quite understand why it would be such a big deal.

    I do understand the statement in the podcast about going overboard with large parties and large amounts of wine. However, even if I want to bring a $6-10 bottle of wine and pay a $20 corkage fee, it’s the wine I like to drink and want to drink. I don’t see why a restaurant would have a problem with that…after all they are pretty much getting their typical, sometimes ridiculous, markup amount when they charge the corkage fee. Am I missing something?


  12. 12 Jay Selman Oct 1st, 2005 at 4:43 am

    Obviously, you are not going to get any argument from me Bob. It really irks me that some places that have a BYOB policy (with corkage) but still seem to resent the fact that you brought your own bottle.

    From some restaurants perspective, the corkage fee does not come close to compensating them for drawbacks of allowing people to bring their wine. The corkage fee is designed to cover the extra labor associated to maintain an inventory of stemware and/or the cost of cleaning the stems. Some restaurants feel that there tends to be more bottles per table when the guests do not have to pay for the wine itself. This has the effect of dinners monopolizing the table while they linger over their wines. Restaurants have a concept of “turns” that is critical to their ability to remain profitable. They need to free up the tables so others can use it and order food. The “more bottles per table” effect can sometimes has the tendency to increase the likeliness of guests over indulging.

    However, the vast majority of restaurants welcome such guests.

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