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Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Randy Mays

To put the following sommelier in the spotlight we are taking you to Turkey, please let me introduce to you mister Randolph ‘Randy’ Mays.

As many amongst you might notice, ‘Randolph’ is not your average Turkish name :-) Randy is actually an American that already lives and works in Turkey for 27 years. Something that might also surprise you is the fact that he obtained a diploma in architecture at the Pratt Institute in NYC and additional Master diploma at the prestigious Columbia University and has already lived in 3 continents… but it seems that Turkey has something other countries didn’t have for him to stay there all these years.

What led him to Turkey we will never know (not love, I was told ), but what we do know is that he was/is a true pioneer in importing fine wines to Turkey. Already since 1990 Randy together with his wife import refined wines into Turkey via their business called ADCO GIDA . I’ve read in an article about him that it actual all started as a joke… To make a long story short, one thing led to the other and before he knew it he was importing wines as a profession :-) (as one of or even THE first in Turkey).

Randy already had a passion for wine while doing his studies as architect, and combined this with jobs going from wine steward, to sommelier, and eventually even restaurant manager. At that same time he was also opening his own construction company with which he designed many hotels, restaurants, bars, etc… (National & international) . But during a trip to Turkey to meet a girl (so it is a love story after all) he fell in love with not only the girl (who is now his wife) but also with Istanbul… the rest is history

Over the years Randy has founded the Turkish Sommelier Association of which is he is currently president. next to that he has also been a judge during many International sommelier/wine competitions, educator, globetrotter by travelling the world to get to visit vineyards and widen his horizon, etc… basically a very fascinating man, entrepreneur and inspiration to lots of people

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I will have to choose Burgundy. No other region can match its wines for elegance, finesse and complexity. Thought I must add, Bordeaux is still a close second for me.

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

To me, being a good sommelier means many things of course but first and foremost, it is about knowledge. However, knowledge alone doesn’t even begin to cover it all. Knowledge without deep appreciation, full understanding, intense passion and a near superhuman commitment to all things truly human (kindness, compassion, sharing, teaching, love, respect, desire, humor, and the ability to communicate on many levels) to name just a few, for me becomes simply the accumulation of information, facts and figures, data. Just information without feeling, emotion or soul. A truly great sommelier must have all these things, in spades, and then some.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Yes, I strongly believe that the proper work, that all truly good sommeliers preform, is underestimated. That being said, I must add that today, I personally feel that too many young Sommeliers tend to be over egotistical, sometimes pompous and self-appreciating, and this type of self-serving approach hurts our profession in the eyes of the clients, customers and consumers as a whole.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

My passion began when I was very young, watching and helping my Grandfather making his own wines and distilling his own spirits in Pennsylvania back in the 1960’s. Then as I grew older, and started working in our family restaurant as a young waiter, my passion and love for all thing, vinous, just went on from there.

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

This is indeed a very difficult question! There are so many over the years. Certainly on the wine side, it has to be, Angelo Gaja, Miguel Torres, Gerard Jaboulet, Robert Mondavi, Etienne Hugel, all of whom I know (and knew, personally). All great men in their own rights. All of them have influenced me immensely. Then, certainly as a Sommelier, I must add, Serge Dubs. A man I have always looked up to and admired. A great champion and true icon of our profession.

Angelo Gaja

What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?

When it comes to parings, I tend to look first at the situation, ‘reading & accessing’ my customers as best and as honestly I can. This helps me to create my approach to the individual or the table as a whole. Personally I try to steer my clients to a route of discover if I can, and if I am convincing enough, (and more often than not, I am) then I proceed with my recommendations supporting the dishes they have chosen. I tend to find the ‘usual suspects’ a trifle boring, so I try to be creative with my suggestions and with what we have in the cellar. Certainly I will always to support a client’s choice if he is adamant about a certain region, style, grape type or price, naturally.

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

Without a doubt, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. For the shear diversity of grape types & wines, the many micro-climates, the incredibly beautiful landscapes and the fantastic regional cuisines!

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

Again, such a difficult question, but for me, one wine has to be Romanee-Conti DRC, 1990.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

I did not attend a HM school. Instead, my work, my travels, my life, that became my school! And it continues to this day.

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Well, to participate in at least one harvest for sure!

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