Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Steve Ayon
For the next sommelier we are taking you across the Atlantic Ocean to sunny Mexico, please meet Steve Ayon.
After obtaining his bachelor degree in gastronomy he started his career in Mexico-city in divers top luxury HoReCa businesses as sommelier or head-sommelier like hotel Presidente Intercontinental, Palacio de Hierro to eventually spread his wings outside of Mexico at the Relais & Chateaux from the Lapostolle winery in Chile.
Steve has also been a busy bee outside of his work environment, as in 2013 he won the Best Junior Sommelier of Mexico competition and in 2017 he won the “regular” Best Sommelier of Mexico contest. Winnings that allowed him to represent Mexico in divers International competitions like Best Sommelier of the Americas (8th), Best Sommelier of the World contest in 2019 and One Belt One Road Champion Sommelier Summit and Challenge 2018 Ningxia. During this time he also obtained his Court of Master Sommeliers certificate and traveled and tried to gain as much knowledge as possible.
Today fills his days as wine director at the Sonora Grill group and next to that he tries to spread his knowledge with the new generation of sommelier and amateurs. And who knows what the future holds for him?!!
We wish him the best of luck and ask you to join us getting to know Steve a bit better.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
It’s complicated. I have many regions that I like, but California, Champagne, Barolo and Bordeaux could be my favorites.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
Dedication, passion, study, tasting a lot of wine, spirits, beer, among others. Gastronomy has an important factor as well as service and the most important thing is knowing how to transmit knowledge to people who seek to learn about this wonderful world
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
In my country it is common that they underestimate the work or knowledge of the sommelier with low salaries, which reflects a little participation in the image of the place. Fortunately, where I work, the aim is to value the sommelier and help the image of the group.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
My passion for wine began when I studied gastronomy and saw gastronomic magazines about sommeliers, which made me very curious. Curious because it was so fascinating how a person could identify aromas in a wine just by looking at it or by the smell. After working at a Fine Dining restaurant I met the first sommelier and I fell in love with what he did, how he expressed himself about wine, which is why I loved it and wanted to dedicate myself to it. The rest was given by tasting a lot of wine, studying a wine course in Mexico and dedicating myself to contests. The rest about telling
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
My teacher Marcos Flores was my main inspiration since I started my profession in wine with him and he helped me to be what I am today.
In the international arena, every time I see Veronique Rivest I am surprised by the human warmth, humility and simplicity, not to mention knowledge as a sommelier. Also that inspiring dedication and consistency of Paolo Basso and Gerard Basset to reach the top is admirable.
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?
For any pairing I look for the smallest detail regarding the wine (type, grape, region, and aging) and food (type of protein, sauce, cooking and other elements that accompany it). I am looking for unusual pairings, trying to make a lot of contrasts so that very different elements can come together and surprise our clients. Despite the fact that wine is the first thing we recommend, the ones that surprise us the most are when we pair with beers, whiskey, mescal, tea and coffee.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
When I visited the North Coast in California, it was an incredible experience due to the high concentration of wineries, very different styles according to the AVAs or the same wineries, but above all because of the great quality that the region offers. For me it is like going to Disneyland to winelovers because no matter how many days you travel, it always leaves you feeling that I need to travel more. I recommend it because both Sonoma and Napa are geniuses in eno-tourism, they know how to concentrate people who are looking to start the world of wine as well as concentrate and help professionals in the world of wine to grow.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
I would love to try many but there is one in particular and I think I can sacrifice something important to try them: Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. The truth would settle for any year, even if the vintage '75 would be great.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?
When it was my first year of sommelier's day, a restaurant owner opened a bottle of Chateau Haut Brion with several renowned sommeliers and invited me for a small drink. I still didn't study about Burgundy but hearing the comments about the wine made that mini drink taste like glory to me, I think I fell more in love with the wine that day.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
Something very simple, the blind tasting experience is undoubtedly something that everyone who likes wine should do. Not so much for the matter of carrying out a rigorous protocol for the professional environment but also something informal, with friends who love wine, having a pleasant time without pretense and seeing who deduced more wine in an afternoon or night is something incredible.