An Inside Look at the Sommeliers of Montage Laguna Beach, and What Wine Director Troy Smith will be Drinking this Christmas

Before this year wraps up just as fast as it started, I want to shine the spotlight on Montage Laguna Beach. No other establishment in Southern California has as many talented Advanced Sommeliers under one roof than the Montage.

Is it because of the ambiance? The food? These are all important qualities, but really it’s the people inside who truly make Montage Laguna Beach the standard for excellence. This will be the next place in Southern California for the newest Master Sommelier to call home.

Montage Laguna Beach currently employs five (5!) Advanced Sommeliers. Each Sommelier comes with a rich wine background steeped in humility and talent. Michelle Morin, the latest member to pass the rigorous Advanced Exam, has experience working at the Park Hyatt and the Four Seasons. Jesse Rodriguez is an alumni of the famed French Laundry and Addison at the Grand Del Mar. Gary Sullivan is currently leading the beverage program at the stunning Loft inside Montage. Gary and Jesse both passed the theory portion of the Master Sommelier exam this year—congratulations gentlemen. Finally, the newest colleague at Studio is Mario Miranda. Mario has experience as the Wine Director for the wildly popular Winery in Newport Beach, as well as teaching at the Old Vine Café in Fullerton.

At the center of Montage’s Sommelier culture is a man named Troy Smith. Troy oversees the entire Montage Laguna Beach wine program. In 2014, Troy created a Grand Award-winning wine list for their flagship restaurant Studio, showcasing one of the greatest collections of wine in the world. He is a soft-spoken gentleman who has helped numerous aspiring Sommeliers achieve their credentials. Troy asks for nothing and gives everything.

With all of the excitement surrounding the Sommeliers at Montage Laguna Beach, I still had a chance to ask, what are you going to be drinking this Christmas?

Troy’s response was purely Champagne. His wife leans towards the clean crisp flavors that Veuve Clicquot “Yellow Label” offers, while Troy prefers a fuller style of Champagne to complement the cooler weather of December. A couple of Troy’s favorite Champagnes include Charles Heidsieck and Krug “Grande Cuvée”, the latter being a splurge bottle. With two different preferences, they will most likely compromise on sharing a bottle of Piper Heidsieck or Guy Larmandier. Both Champagnes straddle the line between weight and grace, making them perfect wines for celebrating and pairing on the dinner table.

You can find the Champagnes mentioned above at various wine shops throughout Orange County.

Veuve Clicquot – “Yellow Label,” Brut Champagne $45

Charles Heidsieck – Brut Champagne $50

Piper Heidsieck – Brut Champagne $33

Guy Larmandier – Cramant Grand Cru, Brut Champagne $60

Krug – “Grande Cuvée,” Brut Champagne $149

If you would like to spend Christmas this year with the Sommeliers at Studio, they will be featuring a five-course tasting meal created by Chef Craig Strong. Yum!

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